Hello Church Devotion Sept. 14, 2013



“N” is for “Nature”
 

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV
 
We have heard many times over the arguments that nature and nurture are the means by which we are who we are.  That by our genetic makeup, we are destined to be blue eyed or even a serial killer.  Sometimes we have even heard it said that our genes decide if we are monogamous or homosexual. 
 
Or is it the people who shaped us during our formative years that dictated the morals and values we have?  Are we shaped more strongly by our genes or by our parents? 
 
These are tough questions, to say the least.  The arguments continue in our society to this day about whether training and education are more influential to us, or are we directed more strongly by our physical makeup.
 
Yet, our God is the God over nature.  He is also the great nurturer and caregiver.  So what do we do with this war being raged by the two camps of “nature and nurture”?
 
 In the Genes?
For example, do we inherit most of our personality, intelligence, and disposition from our parents’ genes? If so, that would mean that we can do little to change who we are for the most part. To some, that is not an appealing idea. Especially when you end up with traits you don’t like.
 
There are certain things like your type of hair (straight or curly), eye color, nose shape, etc. that are definitely genetic.  According to psychologist David Meyers, “The environment shared by a family’s children has no discernible impact on their personalities.” At the same time, Meyers states that, “There are few things that are not so strongly tied to genetics. Among those are “attitudes, values, manners, faith, and politics.”
 
Many also believe that the environment their child grows up in is every bit as influential as nature in determining how their child will turn out.
 


This would mean that people are born with natural talents and gifts, but it takes nurture to really develop those talents and gifts to the maximum potential.
 
One Bible verse that seems to point towards nature is Psalm 139:13. It says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” This suggests that we are already “made” a certain way before we enter this world. Or is this just our physical bodies?  Yet, we also know we were conceived in sin, so we are intimately connected to the fallen creation. 
 
Originally, God created us to be without sin or to be inherently good (Genesis 1:26-31). That changed when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since then, all of humankind has fallen short of God’s standards.
 
What about the story of Abraham in Genesis 12? Abraham lies about Sarah being his wife. Later on, his son Isaac does the same thing regarding his wife Rebekah. In both cases, they lied and said that their wives were their sisters. Does this point to a common character flaw in both father and son? Maybe.
 
Yet the Bible is full of illustrations and commands regarding teaching and modeling behavior to others.  We would call that nurturing…
 
For example, Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says, “ Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
 
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
 
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
 
What about the Great Commission?  Does it address the nature or nurture aspect?  Go and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them all that I have commanded you.
 
So, to wrap this up… how about looking back at our Ephesians 2 text. 
 
We were by nature children of wrath.  We are entangled with sin so closely that it is impossible for us to remove it.  Our current natural position before our holy God is one of being a poor miserable sinner who is unable to change in any meaningful way.  So nature dictates.  Nurturing cannot change our place.  An apple seed will not grow into a pear tree. 
 
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 
 
Yet, while we were still sinners, God entered the picture.  He became sin for us and was nailed to the cross in our place.  Now, God has made us alive in Christ.  How did it happen?  Not by our own power and strength, but through the calling of the Gospel empowered by the Holy Spirit.  
 
Nature is overturned.  Or perhaps a better way to put it would be that nature in its fallen way has been renewed back into the image of its creator.  Do we see this fully now?  No.  But it is taking place in us as we are conformed and shaped by the Word of God.  It started with God’s action in baptism and the Gospel.  On the last day, the fullness of an uncorrupted nature will be seen as the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality.  
 
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
 
So is nature still strong?  Yes.  Why is it we still do the things we don’t want to do and the good we want to do, we don’t do?  This is because the corrupted nature is still very strong.  
 
What about nurture?  Nurture is important.  Nurturing is part of caring, protecting, and encouraging God-pleasing actions and thoughts.  Now that our nature problem is dealt with, we can be nurtured into following the path of righteousness that God has placed before us.  We can develop the gifts and talents He has bestowed.  We can also pass on to our children the sensitivity that was nurtured in us by God’s power and grace.  Do we ever get completely away from the corrupted nature?  No.  Not in this life time.  Yet, the nurturing we receive in this world from even God-fearing people is still not a perfect nurturing.  
 
So, where does this leave us?  Can people beat nature?  Can people outrun nurture?  Only with God are those kind of things possible. 
 
I think when it comes down to it. We need to admit that it’s both nature and nurture that makes us who we are. It’s like asking, “What makes our country great?” or “What makes a party one to remember?” It’s not just one thing.

But it is important to note that at least from our viewpoint, if you don’t address the flaw in our nature with the balm of the Gospel, nothing will change and we will stay children of wrath in terms of salvation.  And while our sinful nature is put to death in the waters of Baptism, we still must daily die to sin so that we too might walk in newness of life.  Ultimately, the Cross of Christ deals with the nature and the nurture.  God sanctifies them both and brings them together in His Son.  As the familiar next verses of Ephesians 2 surely points out.  
 
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.   Ephesians 2:8-10.
 
Nature and Nurture are both a part of our daily life with Christ.  
 


Prayer:  Lord, help me to resist my weak fleshly desires for sinful things of this world.  Strengthen my new life in Christ.  By Your Spirit, renew in me the power of Your love.  Help me to trust in Your new creation work and the power of the cross to change my nature.  Lord, keep me steadfast in Your Word and help me to keep my sinfulness to the minimum.  Help me to use the gifts that You have given me for Your glory and not for my own sinful and selfish ambition.  Forgive me my mistakes and guide me in Your ways.  To Your glory may I always strive.  In the name of my Savior Jesus I pray.  Amen. 

 

Copyright © 2013 Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, All rights reserved. 
You are a member or a possible future member for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Augusta, GA 

Our mailing address is: 
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
402 Aumond Road
Augusta, GA 30909

Add us to your address book