Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Just in case there’s anyone left who still believes in the doctrine of instant sanctification, Paul finishes that off with, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
This is in the present tense in the Greek. There’s no way Paul is talking about his former self. He’s still trapped inside this body of death. His frustration is palpable.
But then Paul suddenly shifts gears and breaks out in praise. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
He’s frustrated. Then he remembers—just like David in Psalm 13
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me. — Psalm 13 (ESV)
Life in Christ is frustrating. It’s supposed to be frustrating. When you don’t see or don’t care about sin, the battle is painless—because there is no battle. Now we hate sin, and the battle hurts.
But that pain does something important—it reminds us of our weakness. Just think about what would happen if it didn’t work this way, if our conversion led to total victory over sin. Would we remember how helpless we were before? Or would we forget and see ourselves as the victors?
We’d forget. Our righteousness would be impressive, and we’d be impressed with ourselves. That would be our ruin. So, in a perverse twist, victory would set us up for defeat.
The only way to not lose is to never totally win! Painful as it is, that constant reminder of our weakness is what keeps us strong—by keeping us dependent on God.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
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