Has anyone had to say to you, As a Christian, what were you thinking of when you did this thing? Have you ever had to say it to yourself: What in the world got into me? I thought I was further along in my faith than this. I thought I left that part of my life behind me years ago, what in the world was I thinking? If you have ever had to ask yourself that question, you need to learn the lesson Abraham had to learn here in chapter 20.
You are still capable of the worst sin that you have ever committed—and more. Abraham has been a coward for thirty years, and he is still capable of being the same coward he was at the beginning, hiding behind his wife and subjecting her to dishonor, disgrace, and shame in order to protect his own skin. But interestingly enough this streak of fear in Abraham is even more alarming when we remember his fear-LESS approach to life in so many other instances. He hadn’t been afraid to launch out in faith from Ur. He had been anything but fearful when he chased the kings who had captured Lot. He had even been bold enough to challenge God in his intercession for Sodom. But when it came to his own fears concerning his wife, his fears and cowardice continued to be exposed.
This old nature, with which we are all born, can be so perverted and twisted that it never operates as God intended it to. That does not mean that it cannot do what appears to be decent in the eyes of others and even of ourselves. There is something about the old self, the flesh, which is able to simulate righteousness. In the flesh's pursuit of pseudo-righteousness, even if it succeeds in an outward demonstration of a sweet and lovely nature, it has never achieved anything but self-righteousness.
Self-righteousness always demands self-praise, a longing to be admired and to win the attention of others. If you fail in your pursuit of self-righteousness, the result is self-pity. Either way, it is the flesh, and it can never please God. This is why when God comes into the human heart through Christ, He never tries to do anything about cleaning up that old nature. He writes it off as worthless. No matter how it looks in the eyes of others if it comes from the self-advancing, self-centered core, it is worthless, and it always will be. What you now are in the flesh, you always will be.
If you believe that concept, you will find it one of the most encouraging truths in your Christian life because it will release you from that awful burden of self-effort that tries to make the old nature behave itself. Ya see we have to renounce ourselves as the Word of God tells us to do and quit feeding it, protecting it and polishing it up, trying to make it look good. Accept all that Jesus is in you and wants to be through you, for His nature is perfect.
Any dependence upon self always results in the kind of experience that Abraham had. After thirty years of walking with God and learning wonderful lessons in the spiritual life, the minute he steps out of a dependence upon God, he steps back into that same, deceitful, ugly nature he had in the beginning, and it is unchanged after thirty years. Old natures have to be kept under control by walking in the Spirit. Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature, Paul tells us (Galatians 5:16). So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Unfortunately, our old nature never truly dies, and we can sometimes be confused by its deceptiveness. The question is, are we choosing to die to all of that old self and live out our new identity in Christ?