"So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
“I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7: 14-25)
Conflict. War. Battle. Here is the struggle between sin and righteousness, grace and corruption. It is epic. It rages. It is real! I’m on the front lines in my own life even now.
It seems that most commentators look at this passage from two different angles. 1) It can be applied to the battle that rages in the midst of the process of regeneration where our eyes are being opened to the truth of the things of Christ but we’ve not fully taken them as our own. The war begins! 2) It can be applied to the struggles of the redeemed. The war continues as suddenly we find ourselves truly struggling against sin, self, and Satan. We're being sanctified but we're still imperfect. We are redeemed sinners, but sinners nonetheless. We want to please God / we want to please ourselves. Sound familiar? Then you're in the war too! I’m thankful that the battle is the Lord’s and that He never loses not a battle, not a soldier!
Before digging in to what is the current heart of the matter for Lori I want to touch on the first angle that has been mentioned - when the war first begins as our eyes are being opened to the truth. Matthew Henry writes : “The law may discover sin, and convince of sin, but it cannot conquer and subdue sin. It discovers the defilement but will not wash it off. It makes a man weary and heavy laden, burdens him with his sin; and yet it yields no help towards the shaking off of that burden; this is to be had only in Christ. The law may make a man cry out, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? and yet leave him thus fettered.”
He goes on to say, “Now a soul advanced thus far by the law is in a fair way towards a state of liberty by Christ, though many rest here and go no further. It is possible for a man to go to hell with his eyes open, and to carry about with him a self-accusing conscience, even in the service of the devil. He may consent that the law is good, may have that within him that witnesses against sin and for holiness; and yet all this overpowered by the reigning love of sin. Drunkards and unclean persons have some faint desires to leave off their sins, and yet persist in them.” How heart-breaking! Sin blinds. Sin binds. Only Christ can set us free!
Now, this second angle is where the rubber meets the road for me this morning. It is the struggle between sin and righteousness, grace and corruption, the old man and the new man. Here’s the battle I’m currently fighting - and will be, to varying degrees, until glory.
There are bits and pieces, fragments and at time large chunks (OK earth size globs) of corruption hanging out in me. It cannot be denied. My life shows it. The Word reveals it. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 Jn 1:10).
Galatians 5 records the battle as well. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Ga 5:17). The next few verses go on to describe in detail what these warring parties look like. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are :immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealously, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these of which I forewarned you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. BUT the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
It is clear – being saved does equal being sinless. There is NO perfection in this life. We are at war with the world, with the flesh, with the devil. We fight, we battle, we struggle. At least, we better be fighting, battling and struggling, for “that which we do sincerely strive against, shall not be laid to our charge, and through grace the victory is sure at last.” Christ fought for us and won the war through His obedient life, His sacrificial death, and His victorious resurrection in our place. His active and passive obedience are our hope in this conflict. The Lord Jesus fights with us now. We fight IN Him now and He is every interceding on our behalf.
This war is real. Don't deny it and pretend its not there. The war is real and so is the armor that God has provided for us to wear in the war. Look to Ephesians 6:13-18 to see what wondrous wear God has provided for us.
"Therefore take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view. be on the alert with all perseverance and
petition for all the saints."
Oh Christian, by grace take up the shield of faith with which we will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. Faith is given by God (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is God who has granted us saving faith may He be pleased to increase our sanctifying faith through the means of grace! He has given us the helmet of salvation and therefore, as His elect, we cannot receive a mortal head wound - though at times, in our flesh, we are certain that we will. We are safe and secure in every situation. We are assured though our assurance often falters!! "But Thou, O LORD art a shield about me, My glory and the One who lifts my head." (Psalm 3)
The war is real. Too often I try to fight naked. Oh, foolish soldier, put on the armor and fight with the assurance of victory.