I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Why is it after a time of spiritual recommitment, when we resolve to do things differently in our lives, so often within just a few days we go back to our old way of living? The answer is sin. It is the sin that is present in all of us.
Paul said it this way in Romans 7:18: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” While becoming a Christian destroys the power of sin over our lives, becoming a Christian does not remove the presence of sin in our lives. That is the truth we see illustrated in Romans 7.
Many people have said that Romans 7 is a difficult chapter to understand. I think one reason people struggle with this passage is they do not understand the context. So let’s remember where we are in the book of Romans. The theme of Romans is how to have God’s righteousness in your life. Paul said that righteousness, a right standing with God, is available only to those who trust in the redemptive work of Christ. Paul spent the first three chapters talking about the problem of righteousness. What is the problem of righteousness? The problem is we do not have any of it. Romans 3 says there is not one righteous person among us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Then in 3:21 through chapter 5, Paul shared the good news of God’s provision for righteousness. When we trust in Christ as Savior, God takes the righteousness of Christ and credits it to our spiritual bank account. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1). While righteousness certainly provides a benefit for us in eternity, there are benefits of being righteous in this life as well. That is what chapters 6-8 are about: the power of righteousness. Before we become a Christian, the Bible says we are not able not to sin. But after we trust in Christ as Savior, there is a not only a transaction but a transformation. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is working in our lives to give us freedom from sin. Sin has no more power over your life than you allow it to have.
The tone of Romans 6 is victorious: you have been freed from sin; therefore, act like it. In chapter 8, there is a similar victorious tone: “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (8:37). But between the mountain peaks of chapters 6 and 8, there is the valley of chapter 7. In Romans 7, we find a truth that you and I experience every day: even though we have the ability to say no to sin, we are sometimes still conquered by it. The Bible says this is a struggle we will carry with us until the day we die. Why is that? Because while being a Christian destroys the power of sin over our lives, it does not remove the presence of sin in our lives. In Romans 7, Paul told us exactly how to handle that struggle with sin so that we can be victorious.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Uncivil War” 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.