The Old Sin Nature

Our sin natures, like our fingerprints, are absolutely unique, though they share basically the same structure. Every sin nature is composed of areas of weakness, areas of strength, areas of lust, and basic trends.

In the areas of our weakness, each of us is drawn to particular kinds of sins—some to mental attitude sins, some to sins of the tongue, some to overt sins.

In the areas of our strengths, each is drawn toward particular kinds of human good. We are tempted to rely on the positive human character traits that dominate our personalities. These are strengths of character that are not bad in themselves, but that can become entanglements if we rely on them rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Apart from the control of the Holy Spirit our strengths can produce nothing acceptable to God because “good” without God—”good” which does not recognize its need for God—is evil. Our lusts are as individual as our weaknesses and our strengths. Some people lust for money, some for power, some for fame, some for sex.

There are only two basic trends in the sin nature, one of which will be dominant and one subordinate. One is toward asceticism, which leads to legalism; the other is toward lasciviousness, which leads to lawlessness.

An infinite variety of mixes and manifestations can come from these four. For example, an ascetic with a weakness for mental sins is likely to judge the lawless person who falls into overt sins. The lawless man may see the asectic’s self-righteousness and may himself fall into mental sins by despising what he sees as a hypocrite. A person who lusts for power and has a weakness for sins of the tongue may try to lift himself up by tearing others down through criticism and maligning. Another person with the same lust but with a weakness for mental attitude sins may never say a bitter word and so may seem to be a better person. But to God—who alone sees the hearts of men—both are equally guilty.

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