By Chuck Griffin
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul takes note of a strange situation Christians will find themselves in from time to time. We continue to sin despite feeling deep revulsion afterward.
Before finding salvation, we sinned in ignorance. After our conversions, we should know better, and yet we ignore what the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts.
“I do not understand my own actions,” Paul writes in the seventh chapter of Romans. “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
His ensuing meditation, using terms like “sinful flesh” and life “according to the Spirit,” can be a bit confusing to interpret and understand. Think of his argument this way: There is the way the world without Christ worked, and there is the way a world redeemed and restored by Christ works now.
Unfortunately, the old world still creeps in, largely because our not-yet-resurrected bodies still carry within them a brokenness that Christ will one day completely drive out. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves conflicted, doing what we know is wrong, even doing what we hate.
I think most of us instinctively relate to what Paul is saying. For each person, the sin may be different, but its commission inevitably brings a sense of physical sickness, shame, and the question, “Why on earth did I just do that?”
The sin could be as simple as haughtiness or sudden flashes of anger, or as elaborate and dangerously progressive as greed or lust.
Here’s the interesting twist in Paul’s letter: He doesn’t offer some elaborate plan to escape this problem. Instead, he shows us a simple two-step solution.
First, we have to admit our brokenness, in the process giving up what is perhaps one of the great sins of American culture, extreme self-reliance.
“Wretched man that I am!” Paul writes. “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Second, remember the one who has saved you, the one who continues to mold you and change you and make you a little more holy each day, if only you will let him.
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul writes.
I note in particular that Paul’s statement is celebratory, a reminder that Christ already has defeated Satan and the eternal death he otherwise would impose on us.
We simply have to accept the spoils of a battle already won, the power God grants us through the Holy Spirit to resist sin. Those spoils are there for the taking, stored in Scripture and the direct access we have to God through prayer.
Dear Lord, move us toward consistent and conclusive victory over sin, and let times of temptation be when we turn toward you, not away. Amen.