Have you ever felt like you’re your own worst enemy? Have you felt like you’re getting frustrated with things you’re doing that keep getting you stuck in life?
This past winter I was driving into town behind a vehicle. We approached the last hill and the tires started spinning on the vehicle in front of me. They eventually got stuck. They couldn’t go forward or backwards, just stuck!
We can get stuck spiritually. Paul is speaking to us about being spiritually stuck. A personal spiritual struggle in revealed by Paul in Romans 7. It’s an inside view. Paul felt stuck. He is his own worst enemy. Maybe you’re in this spot today? How do we get unstuck? We want to do what’s right but we don’t. There’s honesty in Paul’s words. This is very straight forward and doesn’t need explanation. This isn’t Paul reaching into the Old Testament. This is Paul talking about his own walk with Jesus.
I really want to do what is right, but I don’t.
21I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. Romans 7.21 (NLT)
Paul was a scholar. He knew the right thing. Everything was where he needed it to be for him but he still had these feelings. Why does this happen? We know what’s right but we don’t do it. We are indeed more broken than we realize. The damage to our souls is deeper than we can imagine.
Sometimes we think it’s a one-time process, our faith and salvation. When we think like this we underestimate the depth of the ruin in our lives. We will never get to the solution if we cannot see what’s broken within us.
One of the first churches I pastored was in Florida. A sweet couple invited me for lunch one Sunday afternoon. QP had a garden, so we went outside to see it. As we were there QP said, “I loved your message this morning, but I disagreed with one part. You said we need to keep confessing before God. I don’t have a need to do that. I haven’t sinned in years. I don’t sin anymore.” I didn’t even know what to say as a pastor in my 20s, except, that the Bible says we continue to sin. At least QP was honest about this. We kind of start feeling like we are ok. We don’t realize the depth of our ruin within us.
Why is it our spiritual hero, Paul, would write this? This is a tremendous truth. The closer we get to God the Holy Spirit reveals things about us that we didn’t realize before.
My struggle continues.
Faith is not a once and done kind of thing. Spiritual growth is a slow and continual process. Never will there be a time when we can say we do not sin anymore, there’s nothing else I need to work on. Paul was struggling.
22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Romans 7.22-23 (NLT)
This is a tremendous truth that has insight into Paul’s heart. Paul loves God’s word and he wants to know what’s right. Psalm 119 talks about how meditating on God’s word so that it’s hidden in our hearts so that we may not sin. The same word in this verse is in Psalm 119 and means “delight,” to greatly love and desire. We are here because we love God’s truth. We want to know God and to walk with God. We want to do what’s right.
Kids – you may love a clean room, but that doesn’t mean you want to clean it. It’s like taking out the garbage can. I know the garbage can has to be taken out every Tuesday but I don’t want to do it.
Paul has a desire to do it but there’s another power at work within him. There’s a battle. It’s a battle before we come to Christ and it’s a battle when we are in Christ. Yes, this battle is still present when we are walking with Christ. There’s a tension. We are in Christ but we aren’t yet what God wants us to be.
The truth is that Jesus Christ has gone to the cross where He defeated sin and death. When you trust Christ you’re guaranteed by grace, you’re sealed and you will be with God forever and nothing can separate you from God. There’s a “not yet” part. We do not have sinless perfection. When we are fully changed this will come. We will have new bodies and experience a complete change. Then we will no longer sin. We have this promise of what’s to come. For now, our challenge is that we know what’s right but we still struggle. Paul feels like he is a slave to sin.
There’s a Christian rock band named Skillet. They have a song called Monster. The lyrics express he feels like a monster. This song expresses the struggle to do what’s right. Sometimes we think we’re crazy and that nobody else thinks like we do. When we enter into a relationship with Christ we enter into a new struggle. Warning! If you’re not struggling you’re not in the battle anymore. As you keep walking in Christ you experience spiritual struggle.
Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5.8 (ESV)
Satan wants to destroy us. Satan wants us to give up. Be watchful this verse says. The devil is the accuser who reminds us of who we used to be. He takes truth and twists it. We all already know we are not all that we are supposed to be. Satan minimizes the consequences of sin. He invites us to walk away from God. When we don’t do what’s right Satan maximizes this. “Who do you think you are?” We have moments of despair. In these moments Satan keeps devouring us. He is the father of lies. He will tell you Christ isn’t strong enough. He magnifies our sin. He says things to us in our head like, “You’re worthless, you’re a failure, you’ll never amount to anything.” It’s all a lie. Where do we find truth in our despair? We have two natures. The true Paul is the Paul who loves God with all his heart. The true you is the one who has given your life to God. Your old self didn’t want to follow God. Our old nature is still there. Who you really are is who you are in Christ. Satan will whisper his lies. He will keep whispering in your ear. This is where Paul finds himself, in the depth of despair.
My hope is in Jesus.
24Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7.24-25 (NLT)
Jesus Christ came to deliver sinners and I’m the worst among them says Paul. Jesus Christ came to defeat sin. In verse 24 Paul leaves us in despair just a moment longer. This is a humble place to be. It’s miserable not to do what God has called me to do. You know the answer already, but the teacher says you gotta show your work. Paul walks us all the way through this. We are going to struggle. It’s there and it’s real. We don’t ever stop struggling. Thank God the answer is Jesus Christ our Lord! To come to Christ we come to the cross. We ask Jesus to forgive us and restore us and to live a life that pleases Him. We come to Christ continuously. This is not just a one-time event. Yes, it’s a one-time commitment and experience when we are filled with the Holy Spirit but it’s a lifetime call to be invited back to surrender again and again to Him.
In our struggle Satan says you’re not good enough. The truth is that where we need to go when we’re in despair is into God’s presence. The Gospel is true throughout our entire lives. When we struggle, we fall and we return to the cross. There we find the grace of God is greater than we ever imagined. We get on our knees and pray God will keep changing us, restore us. There are some things we will get over early in our walk with Christ. There are other challenges ahead but God gives strength. When we return to this place, the cross, we grow more like Jesus, closer to God and we become stronger.
Sermon notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.