“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
What do you struggle with? Did you know you are not alone? One of the unfortunate facts we live with as believers is the struggle inside of all of us between our sin nature, and our desire to live a holy and acceptable life for our Father in Heaven. If you spend any time at all reading and studying the writings of Paul the Apostle you will find he often describes the Christian walk as a lifelong struggle between two opposing forces. This struggle plays out in every believers life as a battle between our redeemed spirit, and the sinful body we must live in until the day of our redemption when we receive our new bodies which are free from the sin nature we now possess.
One of the most encouraging things to me about Paul the Apostle is that although many might look at him as an example of a believer who had it all together, so to speak, he none the less makes clear that he himself struggled just as we do. He explains that situation and the reasons for it in the book of Romans where he describes for us his own personal struggle, and tells us that he is guilty of sinning much the same as we are regardless of the fact that we are believers. While many might believe that as long as we still sin, there is no difference between the saved and unsaved, the truth is that the struggle itself proves you are a believer.
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.” Romans 7:14-16 NKJV
Paul wants to make the point that while the law of the old covenant was good to show man his need for salvation, it couldn’t save us. What it could do was to show us our need for salvation, and the grace given to us by a loving God. Therein lays the difference between the law of the old covenant and the grace of the new covenant. It is impossible to keep the law, but the law shows man the need for grace. Yet Paul still wonders, if he is a believer saved by grace, why can’t he stop sinning?
“But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Romans 7:17-19 NKJV
While believing that the sacrifice made for us by God’s Son, Jesus Christ will result in our eternal salvation, Paul also makes the point that we are still stuck with our fleshly bodies which also carry the baggage we call our sin nature. While grace can provide for our eternal salvation, it can’t remove the sin nature inside of this body. This is the reason Paul gives us to explain why he himself, and we too, struggle to do what is right but often fail. I think an important point he makes in this passage is found where he tells us that he cannot find the answer of how to do good when he looks for strength to do good inside of himself.
“Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Romans 7:20-23 NKJV
Only born again believers experience this fight. The struggle inside is between our minds which are committed to Christ and desire to do right, and our sinful flesh with its sin nature which desires to do wrong. I have an old truck that I have been slowly restoring, and the best part about it is the new motor I put in. I never have any problems with the motor because it is new, but it is the rest of the truck that gives me problems because it is old and trying to fall apart on me. As believers, we have a new mind which is, unfortunately, stuck in an old body with its sin nature. How long will this struggle continue? Unfortunately for us, we must wait until we get our new bodies delivered to us at the rapture of the Church.
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25 NKJV
The Greek word for wretched literally means exhaustion as a result of toils and troubles. Paul wants us to know that he himself, as well as each of us, will struggle with our sinful nature as long as we inhabit this fleshly body. The law only showed man the need, but grace gives us the means to succeed. Don’t look inside for the strength to win this battle, look up. Because of grace, thanks to God, we will not held accountable for the sins of the flesh.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 NKJV
Being saved does not mean we are no longer able to sin, rather being saved means that when we do sin, God does not hold it against us. He sees our sin as a result of our sin nature, and instead takes pleasure in watching us try to live in a manner that pleases Him, as a way of expressing our gratitude for the gift He has given us. Paul goes on later in Romans to explain that this is what we as believers should choose to do as our gift to God.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 NKJV
All believers struggle with their sinful nature, yet how many look at this struggle as a sign of their salvation? As much as we would like it to end, our struggle with sin will continue as long as we inhabit our earthly body. The difference for us as a believer is simply this, that because of God’s grace towards us, our sins are forgiven; past, present, and future.
“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Romans 4:7-8 NIV
If you have never accepted the free gift of God’s grace, and the forgiveness of your sin, you can do it today. Just pray a simple prayer like this and believe that He will do as He has said He will. Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.