One of the puzzling paradoxes of the Christian life is that a believer is both a “saint” and a “sinner” at the same time. The apostle Paul unraveled this mysterious union in a way that no theologian has ever been able to surpass. After all, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write much of the New Testament, and the book of Romans represents the creme de la creme of Paul’s epistles.
Paul had a deep and profound understanding of both Law and Gospel. And he understood that we “would not have known what sin was except through the law.” (Rom. 7:7) Paul even went so far as to say, “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” (7:10) So who or what “died” as a result of God’s Law? Well, Paul had already written in the previous chapter that “our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (6:6,7)
That is to say, the old nature of a believer has been crucified with Christ and no longer controls the individual who has been converted through faith in Christ. Unfortunately, our old nature (also referred to as our “old man”) didn’t get the memo and continues to fight for life within us even though we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.” (6:22) I addressed this issue five years ago in an article titled, “The ‘Inner Zombie’ of the Christian Life.”
Here is the deal. A Christian is a forgiven sinner who is now free to live for Christ. A Christian no longer has to give into temptation. Freedom from sin means among other things the freedom to choose that which is right and holy. Even then, the only good choices we make are the result of Christ living in us. I addressed this matter in the article, “Jesus Is a Believer’s Justification and Sanctification.”
So what gets in the way of a Christian living a fully devoted life of discipleship? Simply put, our old nature fights to stay in control of our life even though our soul has come under the authority of “new management.” The apostle Paul was no exception to this inner struggle. He wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (7:15) In other words, even the apostle Paul was not a perfect man. He still experienced thoughts and behavior that didn’t come from the Lord, but rather, from his sinful nature. And how did Paul explain this apparent discrepancy between his profession of faith and his less than perfect life? “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” (7:17,18)
The inner zombie of the apostle’s life had been crucified when Saul was converted, (Acts 9:1-18) and yet the apostle still experienced the rumblings of sin coming from his old nature within him. And let’s be honest here. Is this not also the experience of every single Christian today? Who among us can honestly say, “I never think a sinful thought even for a few seconds. I never speak an unwise or unkind word. I never give into temptation of any kind.” In reality, our struggle is very similar to what Paul experienced, and our weaknesses are just as real. This spiritual dynamic led Paul to write, “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.” (7:18,19)
All of us who know Christ experience the same thing. For example, we hate to think unkind thoughts of others, and yet we continue to experience such thoughts at times. Where do these evil thoughts come from? They come from our sinful nature as it fights to maintain some measure of influence in our life. When we get to heaven one day, we will not experience any of these evil thoughts or sinful desires. But for now, the inner zombie is a daily reality we must constantly guard against. Paul wrote, “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….what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:21-25)
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Dan Delzell