We all feel it.
There is an inner struggle that continually wages war on our thoughts and emotions. A battle between two forces that seem to be wrestling inside of us, fighting for control.
We want to do the right thing, but we often find ourselves doing the exact opposite.
We know the right thing to do, but again we do what’s contrary.
You see, our problem isn’t desire or knowledge. But we lack power to choose the right thing.
Paul speaks a lot about the Law in Romans 7. His readers were very familiar with the Law. The religious leaders in their day had built rows of fences around the Law, in an effort to restrict people from crossing any moral boundaries. But it didn’t work. Instead, people were enslaved to legalism, a form of religion God never intended.
A set of rules don’t give us the power we need to say no to sin. In fact, human nature causes us get as close to the line as possible, and in some cases we boldly cross it and then glance nervously around to see if anyone is watching. When the Law has dominion over us, we are responsible for keeping it, but quickly realize we can’t. Although the Law reveals sin, it doesn’t give us the power to refuse sin.
C.S. Lewis said, “No man knows how bad he is until he tries to do good.”
People have one of three attitudes towards Christian rules:
- Legalists believe they need a set of rules to grow in holiness and please God. They believe although we were saved by grace, we need to live by the Law in order to please God.
- Antinomians (anti-law) quickly disregard all laws thinking that grace covers all sin anyway, so why bother following rigid rules.
- True followers of Christ delight in the law of the Lord and it becomes their meditation day and night (Psalm 1:2) because they know it reveals His character, Therefore their obedience to Him is motivated by love.
So the Law points accusingly at our sin but doesn’t solve the problem.
But thanks be to God, we died to the Law and have been joined to Christ! (Romans 7:4)
Does this make the Law bad? Paul says, “May that thought never cross your mind!” (Romans 7:7) Just as we would never fault an x-ray machine for revealing a broken bone, the Law is good because it exposes the problem. But the Law, which was supposed to bring life, actually brought death (Romans 7:10), as we realize sin deceives and kills.
After Paul establishes the believers’ relationship to the Law, he goes on to describe the inner struggle. He seems utterly defeated. He wants to do the right thing, but finds himself doing the opposite (Romans 7:15). Is Paul talking about his life before he was saved, or his current experiences? The present tense language would seem to indicate this is a current struggle for Paul. But didn’t he clearly establish that the believer is dead to sin in the previous chapter? Yes, the old self is dead and gone. Period. But we still battle the flesh.
Paul is describing what happens when we battle sin in our own strength.
When we battle the flesh in our own strength, this inner struggle intensifies. We have no power within ourselves to stop sinning. And the reality is, we will never know how hard it is to stop sinning until we grit our teeth and determine to try.
Paul is worn out. We will be too if we rely on whatever strength we can muster. Legalism always brings us face to face with our own wretchedness.
But there is hope.
Paul says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)
Only Christ living in and through us gives us the power to overcome this inner battle against sin.
The key to victory is a Person: Jesus Christ.
Some of us aren’t humble enough. We still think we can overcome sin on our own. If I just try harder. If I just eliminate this temptation or that one. But we need to come to the place where we admit we can’t win the fight against sin. We must come to Christ and ask Him to live through us in order to have victory. Christ needs to be preeminent in every situation and season of our lives.
Only then will we conquer the inner struggle.