I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
Why do we struggle with sin, between what we want to do and what we know we should not do? Paul explained the reason for our struggle in Romans 7.
In Romans 7:21, he said, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.” The reason we struggle with sin is that there is evil still within us. Some people believe Paul was speaking in this chapter about his experience before he was saved. No, he was not. Look at verse 22: “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Paul was saying, “In my inner man, I want to obey God.” The Bible says if you are a Christian, then you are a new creation, and the real you, the inner man, wants to please God. The old man, the non-Christian, does not desire that. In verse 23, Paul said, “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind.” In other words, the inner me wants to please God, but there is a different law at work within my body that wages war against my mind.
Let me be clear: Paul was not espousing Greek dualism. Greek dualism taught that spiritual things are good and fleshly or material things are evil. Paul was not saying that. He was saying the problem with the flesh is that it is where sin still resides. Our flesh is the only part of us that has not yet been redeemed. Paul made that distinction clear in 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” The outer man, our body, is decaying and being destroyed by sin, but our inner man is being strengthened daily.
In Romans 7:5, Paul talked about what his life was like before he was a Christian. He said, “While we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” If you are not a Christian, then you are living in the flesh, which means you only have one desire: to disobey God. But when you become a Christian, Romans 7:14 says you are no longer “in the flesh” but “of flesh”: “We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” Paul said his real self wanted to please God, but he still inhabited a body riddled with sin, and that was the cause of his battle.
Make no mistake about it: even if you are a Christian, sin still resides in your body. Those desires of the flesh are deceptive, cunning, and destructive. And the old self that is still residing in your body can rear its head at the most inappropriate time, bringing death into your life. It can take a perfectly platonic, good, healthy relationship and turn it into an immoral one. It can take a helpful conversation with somebody and, with just a few words, turn it into a destructive one. It can take your most noble ambitions and turn them into selfish ambitions. Any Christian who denies the presence of those desires still within him is sowing the seeds of his own destruction.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Victory in the War Within” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.