Monthly Archives: October 2019

Born this Way: Human nature and the cost of following Jesus

It’s been eight years since the release of Lady Gaga’s hit single, ‘Born this Way’. The lyrics of this iconic pop anthem preached the self-empowerment of various racial/ethnic groups, the disabled, and of course members of the LGBT community. At its release it was at the cutting edge of the gay tolerance movement.

Eight years on and the message promoted by the song has become entrenched in the popular psyche. In the recent Channel 9, 60 minutes program, a segment exposed the alleged practice of gay conversion therapy. The story line implied that the modern message of inclusivity had now become so universally accepted, that any attempt to understand human nature in any sense that challenges this, especially the Christian sense, is not only misguided but harmful.  

The ‘born this way’ message suggests that the nature of a person is fixed at birth and therefore inherently right.  As such, a person’s birth status inexorably determines their life path, and is ultimately unalterable. It is even suggested in Gaga’s song that people are what they are by God’s specific design.  Consequently, no one can validly judge you, challenge you, or demand you change—that would be unethical. Rather than change, the advocates of this position argue a person needs to accept who they are—become comfortable in their own skin!

But, there is more to this than meets the eye. This subtle message flags a bigger issue that reaches into every area of every life—nothing and no one is exempt. The real issue here is not just a person’s sexuality, but their human nature and how understanding it fashions their life.

It seems that popular perceptions are so fashioning the way many Christians view themselves, others, and their relationship to/with God, that they have supplanted the role of biblical authority as the primary means of understanding and directing life and morality. In fact, many believers have lost their way, even lost their faith, because they have lost sight of divine truth.

So, if you are a Christian and are not quite sure about the claims of popular culture in relation to your essential nature as a human, you might find it helpful to revisit with me what the Bible has to say about human nature.  After all, a right understanding of the self is tantamount to a right understanding of God.

In the beginning, Genesis (the first book of the Bible), speaks about the origins of humanity. It indicates that humans are created in the image of God, created as two genders; male and female—without defect or moral flaw. Moreover, they were given dominion over all the created order, to manage and care for it. After the creation event, we read this summation: ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ (Gen 1:31 NIV). At this point humans were perfect, the world was perfect, and everything was good!

God then placed the first humans Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In was a place they were free to do anything, except eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree represented a test. If they resisted the temptation to eat its fruit, they would live forever in this perfect world; if they did not, according to God’s rule they would ‘surely ‘die— death would enter and destroy this perfection.

Satan, an angel that had been expelled from heaven on account of prideful rebellion, took the form of a serpent with the express purpose of deceiving Adam and Eve. Beguilingly he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, she in turn convinced her husband to do the same. Upon eating, they both experienced moral guilt—something hitherto unknown. They sinned for the first time and their innocent human nature became corrupted. Any subsequent attempt to hide their sin from God was futile—for he saw and knew everything. True to God’s promise, they were cast out of the place of life and entered into the frightening new domain of a world tainted by sin; a reality characterized by pain, suffering, and death.

Moreover, the once-perfect human nature was indelibly changed by this sinful foray. Not only did Adam and Eve existentially fall from God’s favor, but all of their human offspring would forever be infected with the disease of sin—that deep inner desire to live and act selfishly independent of God’s will. It would come to permeate every aspect of their lives, body and soul.

Now, as the human population grew so did the magnitude of their sinful expression. Indeed, historically, there came a point where God could no longer tolerate it, the Bible says, ‘The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.’ Gen 6:5-6 (NIV)

As a result, the Lord sent a great flood on the earth and wiped out this human wickedness. But, mysteriously saved one man, Noah (and his family). Despite the ubiquitous presence of human sin and its destructive power, it seems God was not ready to give up on humanity. It appears he actually had a plan to save them. Noah was saved from destruction through his faith, which set the pattern for the way God would enact deliverance from that time onward.

To be consistent with his own rules, God could not simply ignore sin. As such, his subsequent plan of salvation had to incorporate a way of addressing its offence without dismissing its seriousness.

Therefore, all biblical history reveals a story of how God delivers humanity from the consequences of their sinful fallibility by providing the means to atone for sin, whilst allowing the repentant sinner to be delivered. It reveals how God calls sinners to leave their sinful ways and put their faith in his chosen means of addressing the penalty of sin —ultimately the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

But, you might think that humans have evolved since the time of Noah. Perhaps we are no longer that bad. Regrettably it’s not the case. Thousands of years on from the great flood, the apostle Paul writes to the sophisticated Romans on this subject, outlining the human condition as follows: ‘They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity…Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.’ Romans 1:29, 32 (NIV) By the way, nothing has changed since the Paul’s day either!

So, my friend, contrary to Lady Gaga’s ideal, the Bible clearly states that humans are actually on ‘the wrong track’ from birth; not just some of us—all of us!

If, then, you take the authority of the Bible seriously, you must accept the true state of our human nature as follows: sinful, flawed, corrupted, selfish, and rebellious. It is into this reality we are all born—we are all born this way!

Becoming comfortable in your own skin only ignores the problem, not solves it!

As in days of old when the sinful arrogance of the ancient world snubbed God, resulting in their demise, the inevitable path to destruction also awaits a proud unrepentant modern humanity unless, like Noah, they leave their ways and turn to God, repent, and accept his offer of salvation and follow Jesus Christ.

But I hear you say, ‘Can God really expect me to leave my ‘natural’ desires to follow Jesus?’ Surely that is too much to expect, too much to ask? After all I am only human?

God is fully aware of who and what you are! That is actually why he asks you to leave your ways. He loves you too much to leave you the way you are; he wants you to experience a life free from the control and condemnation of your sinful human nature. You may be born this way, but he sent Jesus Christ to suffer and die for you, that you might no longer stay this way.

Let’s get this into perspective. Those who complain about what they have to give up following Jesus to attain eternal life have clearly not understood what is at stake. Jesus is offering us selfish humans a chance at escaping the condemnation associated with a life of sin, and in exchange offering us eternal life.  That’s not life as we know it with more quantity, it as a quality of life that transcends anything we might naturally experience. In this present age it represents a life of peace, joy, hope, and contentment despite circumstances; in the age to come, an unending experience of bliss in the presence of God free from: sin, pain, and death. Life beyond your wildest dreams. For those who truly apprehend the value of this, they gladly give up anything to follow Jesus.

In fact, Christians throughout history have willingly given up: lands, possessions, family, careers, intimate relationships and in many cases their own lives, all because they esteemed the hope of eternal life offered by Jesus, as more worthy than anything this life can offer. These people took Jesus at his word: ‘Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?’ Mark 8:34-36 (NIV)

As strong as the ‘pull’ of the human nature is, and as convincing as the message of ‘born this way’ might be,  Jesus calls us to leave our old existence, shaped by our natural sinful desires, and follow him at the expense of all.

But, the good news is he doesn’t allow us to struggle in this endeavor in our own strength.  His powerful presence accompanies us, enabling and empowering that which he asks. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit as our comforter and guide. The Spirit brings the presence of Jesus into our lives and with it the power of God to overcome our human proclivity to sin, moreover, the Spirit grants us an inner peace in this process.

In fact the apostle Paul specifically addresses this issue in his Galatians epistle, So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: 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. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’ Galatians 5:16-24 (NIV)

If you are that Christian who struggles to see the value of giving up your natural human inclinations to follow Jesus, whatever they may be for you; perhaps that Christian who is all but convinced that the message of ‘born this way’ might be right after all, then let me encourage you to look again to the Bible and its message of truth. Let me encourage you to look beyond this life into eternity. Imagine the great blessing that awaits all those who faithfully persevere in following Jesus.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. You won’t have to wait till heaven to get a blessing from denying yourself for Christ’s sake, either. God graciously provides you with many blessings in this life to compensate the perceived loss, as Jesus affirms, ‘”I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”’ Luke 18:29-30 (NIV)

My dear Christian friend, don’t allow the deceptions of the present age to cause you to forfeit the great blessings awaiting you in heaven, or even the blessings awaiting you now! You may have been born into a world of sin; you may have been ‘born this way’. But God has rescued you through Jesus Christ, and has set your feet on a ‘new way’, the way of life and hope—both for now and for all eternity.

Hold on, keep the faith, persevere; I promise you, it will be worth it!