Summary: Marc Anthony is quoted as saying, "I can resist everything except temptation." Can you relate to that? Temptation is an everyday challenge Christians are faced with. Paul knew this struggle and he transparently elaborated on that in Romans 7:14-25.
TUG OF WAR
There was a cartoon which showed two friends standing before a Minister and one asks, "Why is it that opportunity only knocks once but temptation beats on my door every day?!" Can you relate to that? Marc Anthony is quoted as saying, "I can resist everything but temptation." Temptation is an everyday challenge Christians are faced with. Paul knew this struggle and he transparently elaborated on that in the passage we'll be looking at today.
1) I don't get it. (14-16)
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good."
Paul starts out by showing the contrast between God's law, which is holy, and man, which is unholy. Some have thought that Paul must be referring to his pre-Christian state-in speaking of himself as 'unspiritual' and 'sold as a slave to sin'. But Paul uses first person present tense narrative. And the way Paul describes the struggle along with Vs. 22 which talks about his inner being delighting in God's law, it shows he's speaking of his current, born-again state.
And I'm glad this is here. It shows us that struggling with sin doesn't mean we're not saved. If Paul, being the strong Christian that he was, could have these struggles and still be saved and still be used by God then it gives us hope. We are able to identify with Paul's struggle because we've all been there. We've all dealt with this spiritual tug of war. And we've all been frustrated with ourselves for giving in and doing that which we really don't want to do.
And in Paul's frustration he says, 'I don't understand'. How is it that we have the desire to follow God's commands but then we find ourselves doing the opposite? We agree that God's law is good that we should be carrying it out and that it benefits us to do so but we find ourselves giving into temptation and doing what we know is bad, against God and destructive to us. It makes no sense and is totally illogical-yet we do it-over and over.
It's not only what we know we should do. Sometimes we know what we should do but we don't want to. Paul is saying he wants to do good. And that's what is so confusing to him. Why when we want to do good do we do the opposite?
One reason is that we're deceived into believing Satan's lies. He tells us this is what we need, it'll be different this time, God's not moving fast enough, he doesn't care anyway, etc. Another reason is just plain pleasure. We know it will make us feel good so we do it. Even though we know it will only last a moment and the after effects will not really be worth it but in the moment we block all that out and chase the high. And then, after it's over we shake our heads and say, 'I can't believe I did it again'.
And Paul says all this shows the law is good. We need the law to show us what is good and what is not good. The law itself doesn't give us the power to carry it out-that comes from God. In fact, as we all well know, whenever we're told not to do something our natural inclination is to do it. Not that this means we can blame the law; Paul made that clear in vs. 7-13.
The law is perfect and holy, it shows us the stark contrast between what is good and what is evil-we needed God to show us the difference, otherwise we would conclude that whatever we wanted to do, whatever made us feel good is good. But since the contrast is given we can see how unholy our actions are when they are the opposite of what God says is holy and good. And when we who have been born-again go back to what we know is bad it's like we sell ourselves as a slave to sin all over again. It's a frustrating mess.
2) It's not me. (17-20)
"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. For 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. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."