We all struggle with guilt and sin. Not just some of us, all of us. It is our nature.
The Bible talks about our sinful nature, but what does that mean?
Basically, we are born with a preference to sin because our predecessors, Adam and Eve, messed up by eating the forbidden fruit. They didn't mean to do it anymore than we mean to sin. And, yet they did it and so do we.
If you carefully read and reread Romans chapter 7 in the Bible it explains this phenomena. But, it also makes most people say, 'what?' because it is so difficult to explain or understand. So I'm going to try to say it more plainly because it's important that we understand why we sin like there's no tomorrow. And, we all know there is.
Sin by the Bible's definition is doing something that leads to death. We all know that eventually we will all die, but you can die while still alive if your spirit is broken or destroyed by depression, pain, sickness, hardship, abuse, isolation or the death of loved ones. Humans are not immortal and no matter how good you are, you will eventually die physically. Mother Teresa died. Pope John Paul II died. We all die.
We are considered "alive" only when we are totally and completely without sin. Nuns, priests, ministers, pastors and other highly religious people are not alive anymore than you are. Why?
Because you cannot be "alive" as long as the body you currently possess is still physically alive. The body contains the sinful nature whether you are a Christian or not. The mind or spirit is a different matter. We all start out with a sinful mind. Our thoughts make us do things we want to resist but for some reason can't.
Once you become a Christian you are given a spirit helper (Holy Spirit) who now resides in your mind but so does that stupid sinful nature. Unfortunately, it doesn't go away when you become a Christian. This is when the dual nature part kicks in.
Once saved, we don't want to think bad thoughts about the driver in front of us who can't go faster than a snail, but we do. We know those thoughts are sinful but now we feel a pang of guilt. We are suppose to love everyone without regard to their actions, but some people make it really hard. We know what is right, think the bad thought, feel the guilt, wish we could stop feeling the guilt and vow to do better next time. Then another driver pulls out going even slower than the last one. Arrrrg, your sinful mind screams. Ah-hem, the spirit mind reminds. And we cycle through right, wrong, guilt, remorse, and promise of better next time.
Does it ever end?
No. I'm afraid it doesn't. But it does get easier to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of the Enemy (the devil). And, just like a muscle, the more you use your spirit mind and ignore the sinful mind, the stronger the spirit grows until it can easily overshadow the sinful nature.
Jesus promises our suffering on earth will end after we die and that we get to join him in heaven for eternity. Once the sinful body is gone, the sinful mind goes with it. Only the spirit mind remains and it can transcend the physical realm. We are only finally free of our sinful nature after our physical body dies.
You may be contemplating taking your own life to end your suffering, thinking I just gave you the perfect solution. Think again.
The Holy Spirit will never lead you to take your own life. Never. So if your sinful mind is strong enough to convince you to commit suicide, you will not transcend suffering in the afterlife, you will get to suffer even more and this time for an eternity. Do the math: 80 years of suffering now vs. an eternity of suffering later. Even if every day of your life sucks and is horrendous, it is but a tiny span of time compared to forever! In Save Yourself! The Plain Truth, I explain how you can tap into the Holy Spirit by accepting salvation. Salvation makes suffering here on earth much more bearable and guarantees an eternity filled with good things (love, joy, peace, etc.), and no bad.
Sin only becomes sin once you know what sin is. Sin is not sin if you don't know anything about it or aren't capable of understanding it. This why animals cannot be sinners even when they kill, which we all know is one of the biggest sins you can commit. Animals don't have the capacity (or the vocabulary) to understand sin is the willful disobedience of God's commands. The mentally challenged, very young children and indigenous people with no contact with the outside world are also exempt from the sinful nature.
Does that mean if you don't believe in God, you don't have a sinful nature?
No. It's the lack of knowledge about right and wrong (God's commandments) that exempts you from that sinful nature. God has uniquely equipped humans who live in isolation to believe in a higher spirit being without "knowing" about sin. Anthropologists who study isolated cultures have found they have a natural reverence for nature, food sources, water and each other. They kill only to eat or when threatened, just like animals. Most of these cultures lack sins that modern cultures have, such as coveting material things -- they share naturally to preserve the whole community -- or lying -- they live so closely to each other they have nothing to hide. They are "innocent" of sins.
The awareness of sin brings shame. That is why Adam and Eve hid and covered their nakedness from God after they had sinned. Before sin they had no reason to be ashamed. Unfortunately, the awareness of sin made Adam and Eve, and most of us, more likely to engage in sinful behavior. We seemed to be wired to be willful and to disobey when someone tells us not to do something. The Bible even says that we will struggle with this.
We are filled with shame when we do bad things even when we don't want to. It's the sin acting, not us. But we have the choice to listen to the Holy Spirit rather than our sinful nature. Nobody said it was going to be easy but the rewards are greater.
The Bible says the sinful mind brings constant thoughts of death, while the spirit filled mind brings abundant life and everlasting peace.
You know you are using your sinful mind, rather than your spirit filled mind, when you consider anything that would lead to death -- yours or someone else's:
- Taking your own life to stop your suffering
- Getting even or settling a score by hurting someone else
- Purposefully driving in a manner that endangers others
- Physically harming yourself or someone to get them to do what you want
- Physically harming yourself or someone to teach them a lesson
- Using children, the elderly, women or any other "weaker" person for inappropriate sexual purposes
- Taking or using alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs in a manner that impairs you physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually
- Abusing any substance that could lead to your diminished health or well-being -- tobacco, alcohol, diuretics, stimulants, depressants, or fatty, sugary, preservative-laden foods to excess
- Participating in "jackass" type behavior -- dangerous stunts or risky activities like skateboarding behind moving vehicles, jumping from rooftops, etc.
- Ignoring life threatening diseases and illnesses or refusing to seek medical attention for yourself or others
- Harming, torturing or killing animals for fun or any other reason except as a food source
- Any other activity, behavior or action that endangers yourself, others or nature (animals, the environment)
- Any obsessive thoughts that would lead you to consider any of the aforementioned things
It's tricky to understand how you can be "alive" while you are "dead" in sin. The only way to feel "alive" is to ask for salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation begins with a simple prayer (explained in my book, Save Yourself! The Plain Truth) and ends with a new life where you feel more alive and at peace than you ever thought possible. This is what it really means to be born again. You get to start fresh.