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…24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
“A certain type of ministry of the gospel is
Might there be a danger that our own studies have created the impression that the Christian’s life of obedience, of keeping the commandments (1 Jn 2:4) and of doing good works (Jas 2:14ff) is something that comes easily to us? When we say that there is a necessary and invariable connection between a true knowledge of God and commandment keeping, between faith and works, might we be heard as saying that obedience and
The struggling Christian, Packer continues,
My problem was that the exciting rapid growth of my sophomore year of college was followed by a dark junior year of struggle. As a serious Christian, I didn’t know where I belonged any longer. I was living in a fraternity house, alienated by a brotherhood whose common bond seemed to be debauchery. I didn’t mind it the year before. Now I did. The “brothers” seemed to sense my discomfort
I was struggling with my own heart sins as well. I was discouraged by my lack of progress in the Christian life. I saw great joy and peace in other serious Christians, little in me, and wondered how I could be Christian at all when I was so unsettled all of the time? For most of my adult life I have been a happy person. I don’t worry much. I don’t get down. I whistle and sing a lot. I am at peace. I’m blessed with joy and contentment. But not then. I was down, and to use a word tossed around far too much, I was depressed.
My Christian friends responded mostly by telling me to get over it. They implied that I was being a bad witness. If the Christian life was as gloomy as I made it seem, who would want to become a believer? I was urged to be filled with the Spirit, and since the fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy, such would return to me.
The result of this counsel from Job’s friends: my despondency compounded. Now I was not only down, but I was ruining my Christian witness, the realization of which cast me further and further into darkness. I was caught in a downward spiral, discouraged because I was discouraged, from which I feared I would not recover.
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.
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
As we read these verses I had a
What are the implications of Romans 7? Let me explain.
First, Romans 7 rebuts
This, by the way, is how one ends up with two classes of Christians: carnal and mature. If the carnal Christians would just learn to trust, to yield to God, they would
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
“Not that I have already obtained this” or “attained this” (KJV)
Expectations are crucial in the Christian life. If I am expecting that if I dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” of the Christian life, that I will rise above the struggle, I may be crushed with disappointment and despair by my failure to reach that blissful state. If, however, I am taught that real progress can be made in the Christian life, that substantial victory over sin may be enjoyed, yet that I will never, ever complete that victory, that the fight is lifelong,
Romans 7 also rebuts passivity, the kissing-cousin of perfectionism. If I can conquer sin completely, then the fight against sin is over. Perfectionism loses sight of the struggle and encourages a kind of passivistic piety.
Activistic language is used throughout the New Testament
Listen to this:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
The Christian life is like a “race” to be won
Discovering this was liberating for me. It normalized my struggle. My classification moved from spiritual
There is nothing easy about the Christian life. We have a world that hates and persecutes us (Jn 15:18-25). We must deal with a devil who is a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). We have our own flesh, our own sinful inclination which wars against the Spirit,
Far from struggle being a sign of a defective Christian life, the absence of struggle may raise questions about the character of one’s Christianity. Why is the devil leaving you alone? Why has the world befriended you? Why are you not more troubled by your own flesh? Why are you not wrestling with “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” and deflecting the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:12, 16)?