Maybe we and the teachers we follow keep coming back to Romans 7:14-25 because it seems an apt description of our own Christian experience. How many of us feel the weight of desperation articulated in this passage and think it normal for the Christian life? When we identify this kind of struggle with sin as normal, we make a grave mistake regarding all that became new at our conversion.
A key issue to keep in front of us is the fact that the Christian life is lived by faith, not by sight. The Christian life is lived by faith, not by feelings. The Christian life is lived by faith, not by Satan’s lies. We may feel like Romans 7:14-25 is our Christian destiny, but to believe it is true is to fall into Satan’s trap. Two titles among the many ascribed to Satan are “deceiver” (Rev 12:9) and “accuser of the brethren” (Rev 12:10).
Satan makes his living among Christians by accusing them of their sin, while diminishing the power of our identification with Christ in His death. He uses our daily experience as exhibit A that we will fall to sin’s power. He takes us back to an old covenant way of thinking that maybe we aren’t “good enough” or aren’t “working hard enough” to receive God’s promise of a life set free from the power of sin. But Satan’s accusations are not true. Remember, Satan is the “deceiver,” the “father of lies,” and Christ Himself proclaimed that if Satan’s mouth is moving, he is lying since it is his very nature to lie and deceive. (Jn 8:44).
Can I encourage you? Do not believe Satan’s lies regarding the power of sin in the believer’s life. Sin’s power was removed by the cross, by the death of our old nature with Christ. Whether you feel it or not, believe it by faith. This is the message of Romans chapter 6. “Reckon (an accounting term) yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11). Because our old self was “crucified with Christ” (Rom 6:6), God is asking us to go to the accounting ledger and by faith, not by experience, remove our name from the “sinner by nature” column and place it in the “dead to sin” column. Accountants don’t fill out spreadsheets based on feelings, they fill them out based on facts.
A healthy tree automatically produces its natural fruit. A healthy believer produces the fruit of the Spirit naturally, may I even say, almost automatically. The fruit of the Spirit is our default mode. Our problem is not the “work” required to attain the fruit that should be happening naturally. It is the hindrances we put up that keep the natural fruit from springing forth. And one of the hindrances is simply not believing all that God promised in our new birth.
Can I encourage you to, by faith, believe that:
- You are holy and beloved. (Col 3:12)
- The seed of God lives in you. (I Jn 3:9)
- You have a new heart. (Ez 26:36) Your old deceptively wicked heart has been removed.
- Your new self is created in the likeness of God; in righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:24)
- He who has died with Christ has ceased from sin. (I Pet 4:1)
- The time for sin is in your past. (I Pet 4:3)
- God’s divine power has granted to you everything pertaining to life and godliness. (II Pet 1:3)
- You share the divine nature. (II Pet 1:4)
- You have a moral resemblance to Christ. (I Jn 2:29)
- You are a new creation. (II Cor 5:17)
- Holiness is your new default mode. (All of the above and more)
John Stott was a great Bible teacher of the late twentieth century. He recently passed away at age 90. Among his many well known quotes is: “Sin and the child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.” The theme of many tributes to Rev. Stott upon his passing is that he didn’t just write it, he lived it. May we also live by faith in the promises of God, one of the most compelling of which is the promise of a life set free.