If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
That’s become a popular subject of discussion. We wonder which exercises more control of human behavior.
Do we react to certain situations in certain ways because of genetic inheritance from our parents? Or do we react because of the environment in which we grew up?
Is one person quiet and another boisterous because that’s the way each was born? Or did the pressures of their upbringing make them that way?
Did John Dillinger rob banks because he inherited a gene that predisposed him to do so? Or did events he lived through as he was growing up cause him to turn to bank robbing?
Was Billy Graham born with a “preacher gene,” or did interaction with his family and friends lead him in that direction?
This is an interesting discussion and one for which there will probably never be a definitive answer. I think most people would say both factors are important in making a person who he is, and I don’t think we’ll ever all agree on which is the stronger factor.
But the conversation misses an even more important ingredient: the Holy Spirit. A Christian is not limited to his genetic nature or his environmental atmosphere. He has more available.
We’ve all heard the expression, “A tiger can’t change his stripes.” Very true. Most people have very little success in changing their own nature. But this is one area where a Christian has a huge advantage over a non-Christian.
Religion is man’s attempt to appease or find favor with a remote god. Christianity is God’s reaching out to bring man unto Himself. We don’t do the reaching. We don’t try to appease. God does it all. Our place is to accept His free gift and submit ourselves to Him to allow Him to do whatever work He sees fit in us. Not to us or at us or around us, but in us. That’s the key.
Under the Old Covenant, God give His people Ten Commandments and several hundred laws to obey in order to try to please Him—knowing that no one could live up to all of that all the time. But He promised a New Covenant through His prophet Jeremiah:
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord, I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My people. . . . I will for give their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jeremiah 31:33 & 34, NASB)
This is the heart of the Gospel. This is the Good News God promised to us. Rather than try to restrain us with external laws and rules and regulations, He said He would do the work Himself inside us. He does that through His Holy Spirit.
As Christians, we have that Holy Spirit sealed inside us from the moment of our new birth. His primary job is to conform us to the image of the risen Christ. That’s right—the Holy Spirit works inside us from the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior to make us more Christ-like.
We are no longer limited to the genetic nature we were born with or to the results of our upbringing either one. The Holy Spirit can remake us into the people God wants us to be IF we will submit ourselves to Him.
I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty exciting stuff to me.
Are you satisfied to be limited to the product of your genetic nature and environment? Wouldn’t you rather be able to allow God to make you a better person than you are?
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.