“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15
Few words could bring the same comfort to the Christian as what Paul says here. After all, here we have the Apostle Paul speaking. He is not just your ordinary guy, not just an ordinary Christian; he’s the one that our Lord knocked off of his donkey. He is the one that our Lord in fact spoke to and directly revealed Himself to. He is the one presumably who had the experience of being carried into heaven. He is THE apostle, even the one who stood up to Peter when he was wrong. Christians don’t get any more Christian than Paul. In fact as we read his writings, it’s pretty easy for us to think of him as something of more than a Christian, a super Christian even. And yet here he is. He has been talking about sin and God’s law. He has been discussing how we are to live as those who are not slaves to sin, as those freed from it, but then he gives us a glimpse into his humanity.
I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Can you relate to that? Do you find yourself doing the same thing, doing the very thing that you hate, and not doing what you want? Do you find yourself still getting angry with the people you know you shouldn’t? Do you still find yourself desiring the things of this world, instead of the things of God? Do you still find yourself clinging to earthly wealth in greed, or to the desire to talk poorly about those around you so that you can look better than them? Do you do these things even when you know you shouldn’t? And do you get tired of struggling with the same sins day after day?
You are in good company. It’s easy for us to assume that as Christians we should always be getting better and better. While it’s true that we should be able to see that we aren’t still murderous adulterous thieves, as we may have been before our conversion, the reality is that the Christian life is still one of great struggle. God, in His wisdom, has determined it best for us to not be completely free of our sinful nature until we die, and so in this life temptation to all kinds of sin will still be the reality. This means that we will always be struggling with this internal conflict until we die, or until our Lord Jesus returns.
As we reflect on that, it can be easy to be discouraged, can’t it? We’re still going to have to struggle for the remainder of our lives. But that’s where this passage of Scripture is so comforting. It’s comforting not just in knowing that the apostle Paul too, struggled with these same temptations, although that is certainly a comfort. No, it’s comforting most of all to hear what he says at the end of Romans chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Lord! ... There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul understood that Jesus, in the end would be the one to rescue him and us from this sin, because in His death and resurrection, He took away the condemnation of sin. What a blessing to know: the condemnation we deserve has been taken away in Christ. Amen.
Lord Jesus, we give thanks that You take away the condemnation of our sin. Grant us Your strength and peace as we seek to do Your will, knowing that in Your mercy You have won our forgiveness for when we don’t. Amen.