Sin is a struggle. The Apostle John, in 1 John 1.8 said: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” It would actually be an untrue statement for anyone to say: “I am without sin.” With that, to say that “sin is not a struggle”, would continue along those same lines of deception. If the struggle with sin did not exist, the Apostle Paul would not have written what he did in Romans 7. In this chapter, Paul is getting ready to pour his heart out in the most real and honest way; in a way like we’ve not yet seen in any of his writings up to this point. The Apostle, whom we’ve “glorified”, or put on a pedestal, is about to say: “I struggle with sin!” And like Paul, even though I too, am a follower of Jesus Christ, “I struggle with sin”. Yes, daily. Even though I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and have been forgiven, I struggle with sin. It’s an undeniable reality in which we exist.
As we have looked at the Book of Romans these past several weeks, we’ve seen that the greatest human problem is our sinful nature. So what is the answer to this dilemma? The righteousness of Christ. Not our own righteousness, but that of Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness credited to us by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. There’s a word that is used for “grace through faith” and that word is justification. At some point, we have to come to the realization that we can do nothing to impart holiness or righteousness. It’s ONLY through Jesus Christ.
You might be saying, “OK. I get that”; and that’s good… but I would tell you again: I still sin. For me, it’s all about how I live. I have to remind myself that I’ve been forgiven, justified, and saved. But each day, the sinful nature that lives in me raises its ugly head and I am faced with a decision. The Bible calls this struggle a “continual war within”. Our spirit and our flesh are constantly at odds with each other; they continually battle. And sometimes in my haste, I make wrong choices which sometimes leads to sin.
Before I had a relationship with Christ, I never thought about the “wages of sin”. If I made a wrong choice, I thought I just had to battle a little harder and not make the same mistake twice. I never understood, or realized, the bigger picture of sin’s ramifications. As a result, that struggle just kept repeating itself. I thought I was doing pretty well. I thought that I was a good guy. I had a lot of friends and most people liked who I was. But the battle continued inside of me until I was so beaten and wounded, there was nothing left. I tried everything. I was literally left with one choice. Choose life or choose death. And looking back, I kind of had an excuse: I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Nonetheless… the choice remained.
I don’t want to alarm you, I’m just sharing my story. You might say I was “anti-law”. The word “law” meaning the Ten Commandments; God’s Holy law (or Holy Standard of what “Good” was). I didn’t know, or one better, I didn’t care to know. I labeled myself as “good enough”.
However, since coming to Christ and accepting Him as my Savior and Lord, I was no longer a follower of the “law” but rather a recipient of God’s grace. But even after my decision to follow Christ, I would sin. Was I saying that God’s law didn’t matter? That God’s grace covered everything so I didn’t need to worry about how often I sinned? I honestly don’t remember thinking about either question. I did know the “shalls” and the “shall nots” of the Commandments, but prior to Christ, never really thought about it.
So what purpose does the Law serve? We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because grace is introduced, that doesn’t nullify the law. So what is the Law’s purpose? The purpose of the law was to identify, or even better, illuminate sin in our lives. Not only did it identify sin in me, it showed me sin’s character in my most inner being. After my salvation, when sin came knocking at my door and I opened up the door to see who it was, sin rushed in. And the aftermath of that sin caused me to grieve. How could I have failed you, Lord? I found myself trying harder and harder to board up the door and lock it but sin knocked harder and I found myself opening up the door again and again. Like Paul, I’m just being transparent… Like he said: I don’t do what I want to do (that which is right), rather I do what I hate. Why is that? The Bible says, “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. “(Romans 3:23) We all sin. It’s like this. When I wasn’t conscious of sin, it didn’t matter much. But now my desire is to honor God and live a life pleasing to Him. That’s my inner desire. On the outside, people might think I’m living for the Lord just by what they see, but what’s important to me is my inner desire to please God and there it is! That is where the battle starts! My inner being is the battle field. My sinful nature resides on the same battle field with my desire to please God. I know what is right but sometimes do what I don’t want to do.
The Apostle Paul speaks about this inner struggle in Romans 7:14-17 (NLT). “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. 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.”
These are personal struggles that Paul writes about and they are the same personal struggles I face. They may be the same personal struggles you face. They’re very real and raw struggles when you get down to it. The war is raging and the battle is strong. Some of you might be thinking, “Oh my goodness, is there any hope?” “What can we do?!” Here’s a few things we can do when going into this battle? First, we must be honest with ourselves. It’s truth that will set us free. But it will probably hurt at first. That’s ok, embrace it because it will be transforming. Next, we must be humble. Humility says: I can’t do this by myself. And lastly, it’s “Thanks Be To God Through Jesus Christ Our Lord”. Only Jesus can win the battle and defeat the sinful nature within us. We’ll talk more about that next week!
For this week, remember that God justifies the un-godly. Take Jesus Christ as your righteousness and fight the battle in His strength. And don’t stop here, take some time this week to listen to the complete message on our podcast about how you can be victorious over sin at… http://painesvilleag.com/a-study-in-romans.