Romans 7:18–19,21-25 (NIV84)
18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Can you relate with Paul? Some say with the words of Romans 7 Paul is speaking about the time before he became a Christian. They believe that once you become a Christian, once you have been given that new life, you no longer struggle with sin the way Paul describes here. Does that ring true for you? Has that been your experience? I bet not.
The truth is the Christian life is marked by struggle. How could it be any other way? We are born into this world completely controlled by the sinful nature inside of us. We are God’s spiritual enemies who can’t do God’s will and don’t really want to anyway. Through the good news of Jesus, we find out that God has chosen to forgive and befriend us. Through that good news, the Holy Spirit brings us to trust in our Savior and creates a new spirit inside of us that delights in living according to God’s will in thanksgiving for the gift of his Son.
Unfortunately, on this side of heaven, the sinful nature remains. That’s why Paul describes the Christian life as a struggle. Actually, it’s more serious. It’s a war. The sinful nature inside of us continues to hate God’s word and will and wages war against our new person, that part of us who delights in God’s word and will. In a very real sense, the Christian is the battleground on which these two opposing forces do battle every day. And the outcome of this war is a matter of life and death. What’s at stake is the eternal destination of our souls.
What a tremendous struggle we are involved in daily! It’s frustrating. It’s agonizing. We hate it. As we look at our lives we sometimes wonder if we are even Christians. We keep doing things we’d rather not. We fall and fail. We feel the burden of our guilt. We know that we deserve death. Our hearts cry out, “I can’t do it! I’m miserable! Help!”
The truth is you have more than help. You have a Savior. The Christian life is not about getting the help that sets you on the trajectory to eventually be perfect on your own. It’s about our sinful nature dying over and over again on that battlefield and the new person in us being raised up continually by the One who has saved you through his life, death, and resurrection in your place. It’s in Christ that we are made new. It’s his work in our place that fixes all our failures. It is Christ who makes the new you (what Paul calls the “inner being”) the real you. The real you knows that as you experience the struggle…when you fall and fail…when you feel like a wretch, you have a Savior who has rescued you. Thanks be to God!
PRAYER: Lord, in my agonizing daily struggles with my old self, teach me today to look to Christ, who has delivered me eternally. Amen.