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. (Romans 7:21-25, ESV)
In Romans 7, Paul grapples with indwelling sin. Though he wants to submit himself fully to Christ, his flesh won’t allow it. He says in v.21, “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” Evil being close at hand means that evil lives beside Paul’s desire to do good. Paul is like a two-bedroom house. Good sleeps in one bed, evil sleeps in the other.
This conflict is part of the cosmic friction that all creation is experiencing in these last days. Christ has come and ushered in His kingdom, but His authority has yet to be fully manifested. Jesus is King and His kingdom has come, but there are still rebels running through his pastures.
We all, as members of Christ’s kingdom, are directly involved in this conflict. The Christian finds himself with a battle-line drawn right through himself. “This man belongs to Me,” the Spirit says. “No, he belongs to me,” the flesh replies. The Christian has the desire to do right (v.18) and delights in the law of God (v.22) – yet simultaneously continues to do evil (v.19) and is captive to the law of sin in the flesh (v.23).
So the Christian life is by nature one of friction. Paul feels this friction and cries out, “Wretched man that I am!” Now remember, this man is an Apostle writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This leads Paul to ask, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Deliverance comes in v.25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God not only can, but will deliver us from our flesh. And notice that God will do this through Jesus Christ. Not one merciful glance from God is unfiltered by the merit of Christ. Every glad tiding that Heaven rains down upon the church is poured from a cup that was first filled to the brim with wrath and drunk to the dregs by Christ.
If you are embattled with sin and dissatisfied with the whole thing, you should know such warfare is not evidence that you are unsaved. Repentance isn’t clean. Repentance is a rough, gritty pilgrimage. It is the one who makes peace with evil that is in danger of hell-fire, not the one who makes war. The feast of Christ is not for those who are free of battle scars and sprains.
I exhort you, friend, to be strong in the Lord: Jesus is greater than sin. Through Christ, God will grant us rest from the war against sin. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (4:14).
But we need not wait for Christ’s second coming to enjoy freedom from sin. Jesus is not only greater than sin, He is better than sin. However sweet sin may be to our flesh, Christ is ten-times as sweet to our hearts. The joy found in Him will make the pleasure of sin taste like dung.
If you want to escape a caged tiger, don’t swing your fist at it – instead, run to the cage door. If you want to escape sin, don’t swing your fist at sin – run to Christ. God’s fist is a bit stronger than yours, I imagine. The right-hook He gives in Christ leaves sin gasping for air on the mat. In Christ, sin might float like a butterfly, but it certainly no longer stings like a bee.
The answer to your struggle with sin is to see something more glorious than your sin. Brethren, Jesus is better.