We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but 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 do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
– Romans 7:14-8:4
“If we have come to Christ, we have done so because we wanted to. We were inclined to, but not by nature. We were inclined to Christ by super-nature. God reached down and with His Grace changed our desire. He changed our hearts from stone to hearts that beat with affection for Him and set us free.”
– Dr. R. C. Sproul, Romans
The above quote from Dr. Sproul ends his two chapters on Romans 7:14-25. I included the beginning of Romans 8, so that we might see the ‘but’ Sproul talks about (Intrinsically Love, March 7, 2018).
Sproul speaks of our desire being changed, but the Apostle Paul talks of our sinful nature making us a slave to sin. There is a constant battle. When we don’t put our best foot forward, we have a choice. We can stop and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can move forward.
Those in the various ‘anonymous’ programs, like AA, can understand. When we screw up, we repent; we make amends if necessary; and we start walking again with a new first step.
At some point, we get it. We discover that the true power over that particular sin in our lives is found in God. Will He not rid us of that particular battle until death, or will He give us the strength today? Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh humbling him. Getting peeved, getting worried all remind us that God is still at work. Those are signs that we still think that our plan is the right one, rather than relaxing and resting in God’s plan. We are not a finished product. We still need to turn toward God and run away from those emotions and temptations that drag us down.
It is not enough for us to only desire doing good. Charles Kingsley wrote, “Do noble things, do not dream them all day long.”
The miracle of Christian conversion is seen in how Sproul expresses our change in heart and our change in desire. God came into time and space to give us His Grace. That doesn’t always mean a total change in our desires. Some of us struggle. I have heard of total miraculous cures from drug addiction. Then I have heard of those that struggled every day. God treats everyone differently. Is it a matter of how much faith we have? I don’t think so. With some people, God simply has to say something once, and it is part of their life. Others need to struggle to grow.
I can really relate to the Apostle Paul. The latter part of Romans 7 gives me hope. I look at the sins and the repeated failures at being a perfect representation of a follower of Jesus, and I feel how unworthy I am. Then I read that Paul had the same struggles.
“You never lose the love of God. Guilt is the warning that temporarily you are out of touch.”
– Dr. Jack Dominian
So, guilt is a warning sign. Yet, we should not dwell there. Christ paid the penalty. Those who are in Christ have been forgiven. The road isn’t always smooth, but we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and a mighty God to fight our battles, if we will let Him.
Will there be war? Yes, but to paraphrase Billy Graham, I’ve read the last page of the Bible, and our side wins.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone.