THE CHRISTIAN’S INTERNAL STRUGGLE
Wapanucka church of Christ bulletin, 2008
In Romans 7: 14-25, Paul discusses his own personal battle between the flesh and the spirit. Paul begins in verse 14 by acknowledging that he is unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. In verse 15, he states, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. In verse 18-19 Paul admits, I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do…this I keep on doing.
Can you relate to what Paul is saying? I can. I don’t know of a passage of Scripture that better describes the struggles that we face each day trying to live the Christian life. In verse 21, Paul continues, “So I find this law at work; When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a vivid description of the continual struggle between the flesh and the spirit that Paul faced in his daily walk with Christ. Paul had a great desire to be good and do what is right, but he admits, I cannot carry it out. Seeing this apostle of Christ, this spiritual giant, facing this continual struggle between flesh and spirit, helps me better understand my own daily struggle with the choices between right and wrong, good and evil.
What causes this internal war within the Christian? It is simple! It is caused by the desire to be good and do what is right. We have become slaves to our fleshly desires and our sinful nature. So long as we surrender to the sinful nature of the flesh, there is no internal struggle or conflict. We are at peace with Satan who controls us. But, when we become disciples of Christ, we seek to please Him. We seek to shun evil and do the good that Christ has called us to do. Thus begins the conflict, Satan using the members of my body to make war against my mind which desires to follow Christ.
So what is it that makes the disciple of Christ different from the rest of mankind? if the disciple of Christ continues to struggle with the sinful nature and is unable to carry out the good that he knows he should do, how is he different? Again the answer is simple. It is the “WANT TO” , the desire. Notice the words of Paul in verse 15: For what I want to do…, in verse 18: For I have a desire to do what is good…, In verse 19: For what I do is not the good I want to do…, in verse 21: When I want to do good…, in verse 22: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law. It is this genuine desire to be good and do what is right that makes the disciple of Christ different from the people of the world. It is this genuine desire to be good and do what is right that causes the internal struggle that Paul describes so vividly in Romans 7: 14-25. It is this genuine desire to be good and do what is right and the realization of our inability to carry it out that leads us to understand our dependence on God’s grace.
In verse 24, Paul poses the question, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? In verse 25, he gives the answer. Thanks be to God…through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature, a slave to the law of sin.
If you are a true disciple of Christ, you are engaged in this internal struggle; this war between the evil desires of your flesh and the desire of your mind to be good and do what is right. It is a daily struggle in which we will be engaged so long as we are in this body of flesh. The only way to end the struggle is to surrender to the evil desires of our flesh, but to surrender to the evil desire of the flesh is to forfeit the grace that is ours through Christ Jesus.
We are told in Hebrews 10:26-27, if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Let’s not grow weary in our struggle against sin! Let’s not surrender to the sinful nature! -Wendell Ingram