The Struggle with Sin
“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” – Romans 7.14-15 (NLT)
Paul has just told us in chapter 6 that we are no longer slaves to sin, but what does this mean to us? Does this mean that we will no longer have issues with sin? Certainly this is not the case as we still live in the world and in the flesh, with all the temptations that go along with it. So how are we to look at this rightly? Paul’s main point in Romans 6 is that we are now broken from the mastery that sin had over all lives, and now have a new master in Christ. We no longer have to obey it’s call over our lives because we have died with Christ and received a new heart. This doesn’t mean we will never fall again, but those falls now have a new outlook attached to them. John gives us such a picture in his first epistle: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.“1 We no longer desire to be mastered by sin, rather, we desire to be holy as Christ is holy.
As believers, we now have a distaste for sin as it no longer owns us as it used to. Does this describe you? Paul begins chapter 7 with an explanation concerning the law. The law’s purpose is to expose our sinfulness and our complete separation from God. God’s law is not the catalyst for us to do bad things, it explains what those bad things are and what they mean to us eternally speaking. God must give a standard for us to live by if we are to enter into relationship with Him, much like we must abide by the laws of the state and nation we choose to live in. These are all for our own good and protection! Back to the sin struggle. As believers, even though the shackles of sin are released, the residue still remains and as men who can succumb to sin, we continue to do so. Please don’t fall into the trap that there are two sides of the spiritual war and you are simply caught in the middle. There isn’t a good angel and bad angel on your shoulder trying to convince you to do or not do something. Certainly there is a spiritual battle raging, but you are not a bystander caught in the crossfire; you are on one side or another. The point of this message is that your whole desire and outlook on life is meant to be changed; a desire to be on the right side and seek to flee from the bad one. This is Paul’s point in the next passage.
Growing Process for New Creations
“But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” – Romans 7.16-17 (NLT)
As new creations in Christ, we begin a process of growth. This process is described in Romans chapter 6: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”2 The process of sanctification is the growth journey of a believer. With a new nature, our desire is now holiness, yet there are still barriers that present themselves in this life. As Christians, we should all be continually convicted of sin in our lives. We should never feel like we have arrived at holiness. This is the process of sanctification. As a believer our life should look different now than it did five years ago and again five years from now. This is sanctification.
Are you in a process of continual repentance and growth? Are there things in your life that bug you that maybe didn’t bug you a year ago? Do you see things in your life that need to be worked through that maybe you didn’t notice a while back? This is sanctification. Peter, I believe, gives us a good picture at what the life of sanctification looks like:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”3
Rather than being perfect upon receiving Christ, God takes us on this journey to continually make us like His son. I believe the reason is so that He will receive more glory and that we will draw deeper and deeper into worship of the One who is guiding us along in this process of sanctification. The life of a believer and the journey of sanctification can be difficult at times, and in those times we must trust Christ all the more. This is our last point.
When the Battle Gets Rough…
“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” – Romans 7.25 (NLT)
Christ is the answer! Although stated plainly, this is probably the one thing we forget the most often. In this process of sanctification, we can never trust ourselves to grow, we must lean on Christ. Without such reliance, we will inevitably fail. If we are truly in Christ, then He is faithful to re-establish us but our call is to trust in Him in order that He would sustain us. The whole point of the Christian life is that we can’t do this thing on our own, it’s only by God’s grace through Christ that we are able to grow and know Him. Paul gives us this encouragement and challenge: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”4 Does this statement describe you? Can you claim such a faith when the Christian journey becomes rough? Ultimately it will if it has not already. It’s simply the way life on a sin-stained world. Christ is the only one who can sustain us in these times.
Sanctification is great journey to be on. It begins at the moment of regeneration, or when God gives you a new heart to follow after Him. Do you have that new heart? Are you growing in the qualities of Christ-likeness? 1 John 3:6 tells us, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” As a believer, it is true that we will still fall into sin, but our overall outlook on sin is completely different then it was before we followed Christ. We now desire holiness and are constantly living a life of repentance. Is this you? We are not perfect as Christians, but we are growing and we recognize our need to constantly change and look more like Christ. I urge you all to look inward at the heart and outward at your life and discern if you are in fact on a journey of sanctification. Christ is the answer! He will sustain us in the tough times. I pray that this week we will all grow in the love and knowledge of Christ Jesus and lean upon His strength alone for comfort and encouragement. Take care and have a great week in the Lord!
On the journey,
1. 1 John 2:1 (ESV)
2. Romans 6:22 (NLT)
3. 2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV)
4. Galatians 2:20 (ESV)