We’ve often heard it said: go with your gut; trust your instinct. Not according to the bible, for it equates acting on instinct to acting like an animal, a brute. Instinct is defined as the inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior. Because our nature was corrupted from the first man Adam through whom sin entered the world, following our instinct is hardly the best advice as that too would have been corrupted. Instead, we are instructed to rely on God’s spirit through the understanding of his word.
The bible tends to refer to humans in one of two ways: (1) ‘man’ for those with an understanding of God’s word thus governed by God’s life-giving spirit, and (2) ‘brute’ or ‘animal’ for those ruled by their self-destructive natural instinct. It is true that the untransformed mind led by the flesh will usually respond instinctively to its most debased nature, usually leading to death; while a mind governed by the spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6). That is why we are called to have our minds transformed, to consider the word of God in our speech, for only the word of God can transform our actions and reactions, even when under duress.
According to Jude 1:10, the things we do not understand, thus instinctively slander, are the very things that will destroy us . But when we seek to understand the scriptures, we are able to prove the word of God which in turn gives us life and peace. When we abandon our quest for transformation through the understanding of scripture, then our reasoning is no more advanced than that of animals using their instincts. Philippians 3:19 assures us that our end will be certain destruction as long as our minds are set on earthly things.
2 Peter 2:12 NIV is even more graphic in spelling out the fate that awaits those of us that do not seek understanding in God’s word: “These men are like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be captured and destroyed. They blaspheme in matters they do not understand, and like such creatures, they too will be destroyed.” The KJV puts it this way: ‘But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.’
When our understanding is limited to the senses (the physical wants and appetites which we have in common with animals), then we are prone to react like creatures without reason, acting rash and using profane speech where we should be silent and restrained, becoming absolutely lost in the service of the physical appetites (anger, jealousy, resentment, slander, gossip, etc), leading to our own undoing. There’s nothing to be gained when we surrender to our most debased instincts, for if we follow the flesh, if we follow our instinct, we will be led to death every single time.
We see from Jude 1:10 that people speak derisively about what they don’t understand, and these become the very things that destroy them. We avoid it by becoming people that can reason and think more logically. We’re often told to just have faith, but nothing is further from the truth! For if you don’t understand something, you’re not going to have faith! The more you understand, the more faith you have, the more the bible will start to make sense and the more we can follow it.
Galatian 5:13-15 tells us that we have been called to live in freedom, but not to use this freedom to satisfy your sinful nature -and living by instinct will ALWAYS lean towards satisfying our sinful nature. Instead, we are to use our freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if we are always biting and devouring one another, if you criticize and attack each other, we will only end up destroying each other -which is not what our freedom is for. Our freedom is to serve one another in love.
As we seek to gain a deeper understanding of God’s word, let’s make this one of our daily prayers: Father, help us to live by the understanding of your word and not by instinct, In Jesus name.