“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…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.” (Romans 7:15, 17–19)
In my sermon on Sunday, I mentioned Paul’s confession to his young protégé, Timothy, that he (Paul) was the “world’s worst sinner.” I confessed that I have an honest struggle with that statement. How could Paul, author of 13 New Testament books, be the world’s “worst” sinner?
Pondering this, I was reminded of this introspective inner-dialogue Paul shared with the Roman church. Life is a constant battle between our old sinful nature and our new redeemed nature. I want to do the right thing, but don’t always do it. I want to say the right thing, but don’t always say it.
This is just an honest assessment of life. Each one of us, though saved by amazing grace, still struggles with our flesh…our sinful desires.
Maybe you remember John Newton, the slave trader-turned Christian who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” After his conversion and leaving the slave trade, he became a pastor and an abolitionist. That’s quite a turnaround! Still, toward the end of his life he commented: “Depend upon it, if you walk closely with God forty years, you will at the end of that time have a much lower opinion of yourself than you have now.”
Newton’s reminding us we’re only human. I guess Paul understood that. I’m beginning to understand it as well.
But here’s the good news. The struggle, as real as it is, is not hopeless. Paul ends his discussion to the Romans with this: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25)
There is hope. Thanks be to God! Keep up the fight and stay close to Jesus. I’ll see you Sunday.