Romans 7:14-20. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
“It’s not me doing it, it’s sin.”
Twice in this passage this is Paul’s argument for his sinful behavior (v 17 and 20). And thus he gives us insight into one of the most important realities of the Christian life – Indwelling Sin.
There is a force present in you that seeks to destroy you. It is not you. It is separate from you. It is not even your nature. You have a new nature. It is Sin dwelling in you, stirring up the flesh – and no good thing dwells in my flesh (18).
This is the anxiety producing stress of Romans 7. This is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde life of the Christian who is still living under law. In the story Jekyll has to accept that he cannot control Mr. Hyde. No serum works. Only imprisonment. Even the Bugs Bunny version is scary.
Romans 7 is way beyond us obsessing over our list of specific committed sins. We have a much bigger problem. Like Hyde, this is a force at work in our lives. This is why dealing with Sin is so much more than just a cycle of confession and new commitments each day. Sin only dies by the cross. Period.
But there is comfort in Romans 7 too. The most comforting thing about it is that it truly explains what’s going on in our souls. Yes, there is a battle. Yes, it is real. Yes, it is serious. Yes, it makes you feel like crap. Yes, you can love Jesus and still mess up. Yes, you can love God’s law and still break it. Yes, there are two forces at work in your life. Yes, if you’re struggling today you’re in good company (me included and Paul). Yes, you are going to fail over and over because self-effort always results in failure.
But the greatest comfort comes in knowing that Romans 7 is not the normal Christian life. Romans 8 is.
“To live is Christ” rescues us from Romans 7 because there is a more powerful force at work in you and me than just indwelling sin. It is the indwelling life of Christ. It is the Spirit. No your death with Christ did not kill Sin. But it did kill the old you. And your resurrection with Christ quickened the life of Christ in you. And that’s good news for any of us who feel stuck in a Romans 7 life.
Do you feel stuck in a Romans 7 life? How does knowing that you died to sin and the law free you today from their condemning power? How can you use the gospel today to fight indwelling sin?
The reckoning is a moment where the veil is lifted and you’re able to see who you are in the face of God – and then the great feeling of relief when you realize that because of Christ you don’t have to be afraid. – Andrew Peterson