Jesus our Deliverer
The central message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is freedom! Freedom from self-centeredness, freedom from hostility and bitterness, freedom from anxiety and all kinds of fears, freedom from bondage to evil habits of any type. This is the freedom He has come to give us. This passage answers the question all sincere Christians have, how can I live a triumphant life? How can I achieve victory over sin?
Romans 7:15 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
From the dialogue that begins here I think it is safe to say that Paul was a golfer. If you have ever tried to golf you know this is the very thing that happens. Paul describes the conflict many of us have experienced in our desire to walk with the Lord. We often find ourselves doing the opposite of our intentions. Does it have to be this way? We try to avoid the struggle in the Christian life by hunting for some easy formula that will bring victory. We have an expectation that life is meant to be easy, not hard. So, if we do find the Christian life hard, we assume we are merely missing the right formula. I’m not concerned about the believer who is aware of the battle with sin; The professing believer who lives totally unaware of their sin and completely content with their self-righteousness concerns me. We’ve all been there! We know the Lord has created us new creations in Christ yet we find ourselves living so contrary to who He made us to be, and the life we truly want to experience. As Paul saw God’s holiness more clearly, he realized and grieved over his own sinfulness. The Christian can’t be happy with his sin because it is contrary to their new nature and grieves the indwelling spirit of God.
Romans 7:16 “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.”
The unbeliever doesn’t have any conflict with the Law. The unbeliever doesn’t have any of the conflict Paul shares with us here. If the unbeliever doesn’t like the Law he simply ignores it or reinterprets it. Man is made in such a way his will power is never enough.
Romans 7:17 “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Paul takes us to the source of this inner conflict – indwelling sin. “It is no longer I who do it.” Isn’t that strange? There is the “I” that wants to do what God wants, and there is the sin which dwells in “me,” which is different than the “I.” We’ve been made new creatures in Christ and sin never again determines our identity. However, sin does live within us. Never take ownership of indwelling sin; it is not us! Man is a three part being; body, soul and spirit. Our spirit, born dead, is brought to life by the life of God when we trust in Christ. Because our spirit is indwelt by the life of God it agrees with the law that it is good. And yet there is an alien power, a force that Paul calls sin in our soul and body. The soul is saved and the body is yet to be redeemed. This struggle isn’t the end of the story though so stay with me.
Romans 7:18 “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.”
We don’t have the ability for true good in our own resources. Even the good we attempt is tainted. Remember there is a difference between our flesh and our identity as sinners. It isn’t a lack of desire but ability. We are called to live out of the indwelling life of God. Peter boasted how all would betray the Lord but he would not. In his own power, Peter was unable to stand against Satan’s temptation even for a moment. It wasn’t a lack of desire but misplaced confidence. When the temptation came he fell. Everything we do in our flesh or out of our own resource will fail. The life of faith calls us to affirm we can’t do anything of eternal value apart from Him. We must simply yield ourselves so He can fully express His life through us. It is only when we come to the place where we recognize we can’t do anything to make ourselves pleasing to Him, and trust to His indwelling life, that we experience the victory God purchased for us.
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
Paul here describes the experience of all who attempt to do good things in their own power. The flesh is not well suited to manage itself. It may suppress one sin only to have another more ugly stand up in its place. It’s the reason so much of religion works on the outward sins and ignores the uglier sin of pride. When the flesh attempts to manage itself the result is not what we want and sin is increased.
Romans 7:20 “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
So it is not the real me because I’ve been redeemed and made a new creature in Christ, though sin that still remains in me.
Romans 7:21 “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”
The word, “Law” might better be understood as principle here. Paul discovered in his experience that evil was still present in him. Remember what died; it wasn’t sin and it wasn’t the law but the Old Man.
Romans 7:22 “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,”
Only the converted soul delights in the Law of God. The unbeliever is simply in the flesh, bound in Adam a sinner. The believer delights in God.
Romans 7:23 “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”
We have no strength or power of our own to combat sin and win. God left us completely dependent on Christ’s work for our deliverance and forgiveness. Sin was not in his spirit but in his body.
Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The word translated “wretched” meant originally, “wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor.” That is exactly what the flesh will do to you. This is the cry of despair when we see our flesh. All self-hope has vanished. Blessed is the man who has arrived at spiritual bankruptcy, who cries out to God because this is the point where he can receive help. The question is not, “How shall I improve or deliver myself?” Or even, “How shall I be delivered?” But it is a frantic appeal for a deliverer! Paul wasn’t asking for principles but a person. It is reported that near Tarsus an ancient tribe sentenced convicted murders’ to an especially gruesome execution. The corpse of the slain person was lashed tightly to the body of the murderer and remained there until the murderer himself died. The decay of the murdered soon infected and killed the murderer. Paul cries out for deliverance from this body of death.
Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Don’t miss the answer or you’ve missed the whole point of the dialogue. Who shall deliver us? It is only in Christ! Notice that our deliverance isn’t by Christ but through Christ. The Lord Jesus has already done it. I was once a slave but now I will live delivered. No matter how many times we find ourselves in conflict or deceived by sin let the law do its work and bring us to the place of brokenness with no hope in the flesh and find our deliverance in Him. The answer to the times of inner conflict is to cry out to your deliverer. Jesus is your deliverer. It is a path of faith by grace. We continue in the Christian life just as we began by grace through faith. There is no hope outside of faith. The flesh hates faith it wants some of the credit for accomplishing victory but there flesh has no victory. Faith leaves no part for man’s will and energy. The flesh will go to any degree of religious self-denial or self-inflicted suffering and anything but the denial of self.
I’m praying for you and trust our Abba to work wonderfully in and through you this week. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
You are loved!