Romans 7:15-20 (NASB) reads: “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For 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. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
I became a Christian at age 34 at a businessman’s outreach breakfast on May 8, 1992 listening to a talk by Adolph Coors IV. That was almost 30 years ago. How can it be possible that I would still be sinning? I have to acknowledge after years of studying scripture, leading bible studies, teaching at men’s retreats and discipling men that Paul’s words found here describe me perfectly. I say to myself like Nathan said to King David: “You are the man!”
Having studied Romans numerous times, Chapter 7 has always gripped me. I have been deeply comforted to know that the great Apostle Paul wrote these words about himself toward the end of his life— explaining the struggle of the Holy Spirit in us with our sinful nature that just won’t die and hangs on for its dear life like a dying corpse wrapped around our necks. By studying Romans with other men who understand “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18), I was encouraged to know I did not share in Paul’s struggle alone.
Some observations about Paul’s words I’d offer:
- The fact that this war is being waged in our soul, while it can be a funny tongue twister when we read it, was never used by Paul to make an excuse for his sin. He offers only one biblical response to our battle against sin: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Only in complete humility, with a broken and contrite heart, crying out to Jesus do we find a solution to this universal problem.
- By listening to Bill McCurine’s talk on Racial Reconciliation (which I’d recommend to you) I was reminded that the goal of sanctification is not only to avoid transgressing God’s commands but is the much deeper transformation of WANTING to obey all of God’s commands that apply to me. Note how many times the word “want” appears in the text first above, both in the positive and the negative. In the Greek- it’s a strong word meaning to be gladly inclined, what we want to happen, desire (Strongs- G2309 Theol).
- Remembering Psalm 37, I found myself meditating on King David’s recipe for how to delight myself in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart”. That word “delight” is Anag- meaning to be soft and pliable, as in moldable clay in the hands of the maker. Trust Jesus, cultivate faithfulness, be soft and pliable in His hands, commit my way to whatever is His way, rest and wait patiently for Him and “He will do it”. Psalm 37:3-7.
My Application: Wanting what Jesus wants (and make no mistake about it, He and the Apostles tell us what He wants in the New Testament commands), is not obtained by a “boot strap” obedience that I conjure up through my own self effort and self-will, but rather the product of continuing to cry out to Jesus like I did 30 years ago- Save Me Jesus, I plead that you would make me WANT what you want.