Paul continues in Romans 7, verse 25:
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
What does this verse mean, exactly? That we will continue to struggle this way for the rest of our lives? I think it does—in a sense. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains it this way:
“While awaiting freedom from the presence of sin, believers still face conflicts between their regenerated minds (or new natures or capacities) and their sin natures or capacities."
That feels like bad news, but as Paul continues to address these issues in full in Chapter 8, we are given tremendous hope as well. Though I won’t post the entire chapter here word for word, I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself, right now! (Click here for a link to Romans 8 at Biblegateway.com. It’ll bring you to the Message translation, but you can also easily view other translations there with the simple click of a button.)
Here are some of the verses in Romans 8 that spoke the most deeply to me, each one followed by the thoughts I had at the time. (Bible verses are in italics):
[Believers] no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation.
That would be so great, to get out from under the black cloud that is my messy house, my messy life!
The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
Just the image of Christ “clearing the air” helps me to breathe easier.
In his Son, Jesus, [God] personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.
And if He took on the disordered mess of humanity, might He be able to help with the disordered mess of my home and my time as well?
And now what…we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
So it’s not about trying harder? The solution isn’t to be found in redoubling my efforts? Apparently not. Instead, this says that I am simply to focus on God and what His Spirit is doing in me.
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!
Obviously, I have proven time and again that I cannot do this on my own. But can I really “trust God’s action” in me instead? More importantly, if I do that, will I really be filled with the Spirit of the living and breathing God?
Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.
A spacious, free life. I want that so badly that just reading the words brings tears to my eyes.
Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.
And what have I done every time in the past except focus on self—on my own determination, my own willpower, my own best intentions? No wonder I have continued to fail, year after year.
BE SURE TO COME BACK TOMORROW FOR THE NEXT PORTION OF THIS ESSAY.