QUESTION: Some people are good-natured and religious almost from birth. Do they need the new nature?
ANSWER: Most certainly they do! The very man to whom Jesus spoke those memorable words, "Ye must be born again," was a noble and religious man. Morally, socially, and religiously, everything appeared to be in his favor, yet the Lord met him point-blank. Never forget that the old nature is totally incapable of doing anything that pleases God: "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). After the old nature has been to a seminar, a church, a Bible school, a summer conference, or even seminary, it is still the old nature!
QUESTION: Can the believer ever be completely free of the old nature, or can the new nature ever subdue it entirely?
ANSWER: As long as the believer lives on this earth, the old nature will be present. He is told to consider it dead and crucified, but even when subdued it always waits for opportunities to show signs of life. When victory seems close at hand, watch out—self-dependence and pride come from the old nature!
There may have never been a more mature Christian than the Apostle Paul. Read Romans 7 for an account of his struggle with the old nature. Also, note that when Paul was given a glorious vision of heaven, God considered it necessary to inflict Paul with a "thorn in the flesh" to guard against his pride (2 Corinthians 12:1-7). If Paul was not immune to the flesh, neither are we!
QUESTION: What are believers to do when they allow the old nature to act?
ANSWER: God in His wonderful salvation has made provision for this. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Our blessed Lord did not exhaust His interest in us on the cross, but continues to intercede for us when we fall into sin.
Our first responsibility is to recognize that we have sinned. We must not attempt to shift the blame to the "old nature," as though it acts independently of us. Then, we are told: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). God loves to have His children walking closely with Him. Unconfessed sin hinders that communion. When we allow the old nature to have its own way, let's be quick to judge it and confess it.
QUESTION: Can you give any hints that will help me to distinguish between the desires of the old nature and the promptings of the new?
ANSWER: I cannot give you any that will enable you to do away with God's Word, or relieve you of the necessity of prayer and exercise of heart. The Word of God can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, and the throne of grace stands ever available that we may find grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:12,16).
However, it may be helpful to remember that just as a compass is true to the north, so the new nature is true to God, and the old nature is true to self. All which has Christ for its object is of the one, all which has self for its object of the other. A thousand perplexing questions would be solved by asking, "What is the secret motive which drives me in this? Christ-glorification or self-glorification?"