Today's Readings - Ecclesiastes 1-2, Romans 7, Psalm 95, Proverbs 20:16–18
Hey, who has been reading my diary? That's not right!
Ever felt that way when you were listening to a preacher and suddenly it's like he is talking directly to you; like he knows your heart and life? That's how I feel when I read Romans 7, especially verses 13-24.
(NOTE: Theologians debate this passage as to who Paul is talking about - many doubt that some of Paul's statements could apply to the redeemed. That is wrong to me. Every Christian I've ever known is both redeemed AND struggling - just like Paul's testimony here. Sometimes theologians perhaps theologize too much for their own good?)
In those verses, Paul describes the inner struggle that Christians go through between the work of God's Spirit within them, drawing them toward righteousness and holiness and the power of the sinful flesh that remains in each of us. Verses 22-23 say,
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Paul admitted being torn between the inner work of grace and the remaining power of sin. It was a constant and lifelong struggle, even for the redeemed. And Paul often felt trapped in this struggle. He wanted to do what was right, to follow the ways of God, but sin continued to lay its appeal before him. Verses 18-21 explain the conflict.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
That's me in a single paragraph. I want to do right. I want to break bad habits and build new ones. I want to say yes to God and no to sin. I really do want to, but sin is still there. I do not do what I want to do and what I want to do I do. Evil is right there ready to fight against the work of God in me.
I wish a day would come when the struggle would be over, when my flesh would no longer draw me toward sin, when the Spirit's work in my soul would be complete and my life would only be righteous. I wish. And it will be like that one day. It's called heaven. Glory. But here in this world, we have to live with the struggle.
But we do not have to lose the struggle. We may lose battles along the way, but Jesus Christ died and rose so that sin would not control us or enslave us. Observe verses 24-25.
Wretched man I am! (Anyone else feel that way from time to time?) Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Some days I want to give up on myself because of my fleshly failures but thank God, it's not about me! Jesus Christ has delivered me from the penalty of sin. He will one day deliver me from the very presence of sin. And today, day by day, Jesus Christ is working to deliver me in this lifelong, intense, often challenging and discouraging, battle against the power of sin. He strengthens me! Thanks be to God that Jesus does for me what this wretched man cannot do for himself - to battle sin and win.
I thank you, Father, that through your Son I have hope. I get so frustrated with myself, but you are patient and powerful. Father, fill me with your Spirit today that I may walk in the victory over sin you have given me.
Think and Pray
Do you use the grace of God as an excuse for careless living? Repent and ask God's strength to walk in the new life God prepared for you.
Remember that Jesus Christ gives us victory as we walk in him and he can and will give us the strength we need in this battle with our own inner, "wretched man."