11/24/16 Waging War

READING: Romans 4-7

Walking faithfully with God is not easy, even for those He has called to His work. The Apostle Paul could not deny his calling, but nor could he deny the battle he faced every day of his life. Scholars debate whether Paul was talking about unbelievers or believers in his description in Romans 7, but the evidence suggests he was talking about his own battle as a believer: “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. . . . Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work within me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Rom 7:15-23). 

While this passage does not describe the entirety of Paul’s Christian life (that is, the rest of the book of Romans matters), it does reveal that even he struggled with obedience. He knew what he needed to do, but he didn’t always do it. He hated sin, but he did it anyway at times. Inside of him waged a war between obedience and sin, between the Spirit and the flesh, between God's Word and the enemy's lures. Sometimes he felt like he was a “slave to sin” (Rom 7:14) even though he also delighted in God’s law (Rom 7:22)“I myself,” Paul wrote, “in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). He was still a “wretched man” (Rom 7:24) caught in this struggle as a believer.  

Here, Paul reminded us that we are our own worst enemy. We wrestle against principalities and powers, and the world stands in opposition to us — but our flesh remains our biggest problem. That truth means that we can never land on a “the devil made me do it” theology. Yes, the enemy tempts us. Yes, he wants to drag us into sin. Yes, he wants to weaken our Christian witness. Yes, he is real and powerful, but he is not the cause behind our problems. We are sinners who still choose to sin, even as believers. Thus, repenting from sin rather than rebuking the devil is a primary strategy to break the enemy’s hold. 

Even those acts of repentance, though, are not about us — for we do not default into repentance. Any victory we have is because of God, who delivers us through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25). Thanks be to Him!

ACTION STEPS: 

  • Recognize that your inner spiritual battle is a common one for believers — but do not allow it to give you permission to sin. May that never be!    
  • Thank God that He delivers you through Jesus.          

PRAYER: “God, Paul’s battle describes my battle. Help me. Empower me. Deliver me.”    

TOMORROW'S READING: Romans 8-10