Grace For The Journey
When was the last time you felt like two completely different people? If you are anything like me, you felt that way recently – praising God one minute and fussing and fuming the next! Well, I have a word of comfort for every child of God who does not always act like a child of God . . . and wonders why.
In the 19th century, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a short suspense novel, titled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson explored the concept of two different people living inside one body. In an effort to become a better person, Dr. Jekyll, a mild-mannered man of science, developed a potion that was meant to separate his “good self” from his “bad self.” After drinking the concoction, however, Dr. Jekyll’s bad side turned out to be much more powerful and evil than he had ever imagined. At night he became the mysterious Mr. Hyde, a violent man who cared only for his own desires.
When Dr. Jekyll realized the extent of his own depravity, he tried to clamp down on his Mr. Hyde side, resolving not to take the potion anymore. But his Mr. Hyde side had become too strong. Despairing of ever changing himself for the good, Dr. Jekyll took his own life.
I was reminded of this Jekyll-Hyde conflict as I studied this truth and I would like to unpack the principle of this ongoing struggle within every sinner-saint in my blog today.
The Bible teaches about this battle in Romans chapter 7.
Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul confirmed what you and I experience every day: the truth that every Christian struggles with his “old self” (his sinful nature by birth) and his “new self” (his Spirit-filled nature by re-birth).
The Bible says in Romans 7:15-20, 24-25a, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh, my sinful nature) nothing good dwell; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who does it, but sin that dwells in me” … “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!.”
The greatest struggle Paul faced was not outside of himself. Paul’s life was marked by constant struggle! He was flogged, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times, he spent a night and a day in the open sea, he was imprisoned, falsely accused, went hungry, was thirsty and cold, and he felt the weight of his concern for the purity, unity, and growth of all the fledgling Christian churches (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).
As bad as all those hardships were,
Paul’s inward struggle with indwelling sin
Grieved him far more.
However, Paul’s story does not end in tragedy like Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll. No, Paul’s story ends in victory through sanctification and ultimately glorification when God took him home.
To be sure, indwelling sin still remained in Paul,
Just as it remains in us,
But it no longer reigned in him
And one day it would be gone forever.
Unlike Dr. Jekyll, Paul did not despair of ever changing himself for the good because the Holy Spirit was doing it for him. Paul was being conformed to the likeness of Christ daily, but along the way, he would battle with his old nature . . . and he would lose some of those battles.
And so will you and I. That’s what God wants us to learn from the truth in this Romans 7 passage. To help us get victory in this battle between our two natures, we must remind ourselves of the following gospel truths:
1) Sin is Alive and Well
There is a principle throughout Scripture that we all need to understand: all of us are sinners and fall short of what God wants. That includes every person on the planet. Another principle we need to understand is this: even if you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are still a sinner and fall short of what God wants. There is a sinful nature that dwells within each believer. Paul mentioned this Romans 7:17-18.
The Bible teaches that if we have truly accepted Jesus Christ, God has declared us righteous based on what Jesus has done for us, but we still have a sin nature within us. In the above verses, Paul wrote about “sin dwelling within me.” This means that sin is alive within us. Sin continues to dwell within us even though the penalty of death and the guilt associated with sin has been removed by the cross of Jesus Christ.
Another principle in Scripture that we need to understand is this: If sin is alive and well within us (and it is!), then we are incapable of not sinning.
Even the good you do or want to do is tainted by wrong desire.
Our most exalted moments in life,
Those things that draw the greatest praise from others,
Do not fulfill God’s righteous demands.
The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” All of us, Christian and un-Christian alike, have and do still fall very short of God’s glory.
2) There is a War Within Us
Our sinful nature is at its core a battle of desire. It is the desire for what you should not want and have that causes problems. Even Christians have competing desires. There is a war on sin that occurs within each believer. Paul teaches this in Romans 7:23.
When you receive Jesus as your Savior, God gives you the Holy Spirit. He then begins to work in your life to remove all that junk and fleshly desires in your life. God wants you to be like Jesus and this will bring conflict and it will sometimes bring pain.
God wants us to recognize the existence and power of sin in our life and that we will constantly struggle against it. There is a battle between sin and what God desires and demands of us. Paul did not say that you should give up. He did not say that you should let sin have its way because you are powerless to stop it. We are to acknowledge that it is God’s power and work that sanctifies us and fight the good fight between those sinful desires and the Godly desires.
Paul is saying that he knew he had this sin nature and it had not gone away as result of his faith in Jesus Christ. Paul acknowledged that when he decided to follow Jesus Christ, he also accepted a declaration of war against the sin in his life. He wanted to do what was right, but he admitted that he did not have the power or ability to do it (Romans 7:18). There was a war going on within him – on the one hand he desired to do what was right and what glorified God, but on the other hand, he still lived with the desires and temptations of the flesh which led him to please himself.
When we accept Christ and begin to follow Him, we enter a battlefield – a spiritual war within us. While we are forgiven and saved the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ, there is also a call for each of us to fight the indwelling sin within us. We are saved from the guilt and punishment of sin, but we must still fight those sinful desires to follow the old man. We are to wage war with it! Do not accept defeat saying sin has won. Do not call it a vice, or mistake, or some other term to make you feel better about your sin. Call it what it is and let God give you the victory over it.
This raises the question: “How do we win the battle of competing desires in our lives?” God tells us in Romans 7:24-25.
3) The Battle is Won Through Jesus Christ
In these verses, Paul acknowledged the struggle between wanting to do what is right and living to please God, and not being able to do it. He said there was a sinful nature within him that prevented him from doing what he should do. So bad was his situation, Paul wrote that he was miserable. He was in a wretched state.
We must not deceive ourselves by believing we can do right and please God on our own. Paul wanted to do what was right but was helpless to get victory over it. If we recognize the sin that dwells within us we are better able to understand the grace of God that works in our lives to overcome it
The battle will be won through Jesus Christ! One day, we will cast off these corrupted bodies that are drawn to sin and put on new glorified bodies.
In the section that immediately follows (Romans 8:1–11), Paul shows that the means by which Christians are delivered daily from the indwelling power of sin is by walking “not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). We are to not “set [our] minds on the things of the flesh, but … on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). We are also to be led by the indwelling presence of “the Spirit of God [who] dwells in you” (Romans 8:9, 11).
While we must fight the indwelling sin within us, we must also realize that the power to overcome it is not ours. We cannot win this battle on our own. We must rely on the truth of God’s Word and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. If you find yourself fighting sin and believe you are losing the battle, maybe you are trusting in your own power. Trust in Christ. Rely on Him.
Let us, with all the energy we possess earnestly desire what is right and pleasing to God – namely to know and love God better. God is your most treasured possession, not your money, not your job, not your reputation, not even your family. May loving and knowing God be your greatest desire.
This is a lifetime of work of the Holy Spirit. Pray for more of God’s power and the fruit of the Spirit to be produced in your life. Pray for the desires of God to replace those remaining desires of the flesh. Ask yourself, “What do I desire more than Jesus?”
Do not pray to God that He would help you do better things, but rather pray that He would give you new desires, new affections, and a greater love for Him. Only from God-given desires will we truly produce the fruit, character, and life of the Spirit that pleases God. Pray for Godly desires to replace those sinful ones.
And remember … the ultimate victory is assured because of the work of Christ on the cross and through the empty tomb.
Paul knew his daily battle would not be won though his resolve
But rather, through his reliance in
The finished work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
And what was true for Paul then is true for all of us today.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”