June 12, 2014.
“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 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. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Sometimes I forget that Paul was a man. It’s not that I view Paul as a demigod or anything ridiculous like that, but I think I see him, along with other strong spiritual leaders, as having everything together, not burdened by the struggle of temptation. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But in times of struggle, I remind myself that I am not alone. Guilt is suffocating. I believe the devil uses this tool to tell us we are terrible and the only ones who struggle with any kind of sin. It can be very effective, causing many Christians to simply give up because there is no hope in sight. We must break free of this lie.
Paul was a man. He struggled with temptation and failed time and again. Just because it is not recorded does not mean it didn’t happen. On the contrary, the passage above implies he failed. Paul is relating his struggle to the church in Rome and explaining our relationship with the law. He lays it all out, not trying to hide from his own weakness. He goes on in the next section:
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 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. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Wretched man that I am! What a statement. Paul was no stranger to sin, just as we are today. We are to be soldiers, fighting against sin, not letting it entangle us. However, if we do succumb to sin, we must not give up. There is no surrender. We have already won the victory, all we need is endurance. We need not let guilt suffocate us, but we also need not think lightly of sin. Paul wrote earlier in his letter:
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
It is a constant struggle that we have with the flesh. Back and fourth, until all is accomplished. No one said it would be easy. But we must remember who is fighting for us and that we are on the winning side. There are many things God could have chosen to do with us after He created us, any of which we would have no say against. Isn’t it wonderful that He chose to love us, care for us and set up a plan to redeem us? That’s almost not fathomable to me. Maybe it isn’t. But that’s what he did. Hallelujah be to the King of kings. He’s on our side, let us allow Him to fight with us. I am convinced that temptation has its strongest hold over us when we push God aside, usually because we want to fall into temptation. This seems to be the case for me at least. Remember what John writes:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
(1 John 2:15-17)
We must set our minds on things above, even when we fail. When you fall, you get right back up and try again. We should all be reaching for perfection, knowing that such perfection cannot be obtained until our Lord returns and fully abolishes sin and death. What a glorious day that will be. Until then, we should ever be pressing forward. May the word of truth dwell in you richly.
Suggested Daily Reading: Romans 6-7, I John 1-2.
The Lord bless you and keep you.