A Bad Omelet
Romans 7 is a fascinating chapter on struggling with sin. Paul writes openly about the war within himself, the battle between the sinful flesh and the spirit. "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice ... O wretched man that I am!" (vv. 19, 24).
Sometimes we think that spiritual leaders don't struggle with the old nature. Well, it's not true! Every one of us struggles with sin every day, and the sooner we admit that, the better off we'll be.
If you say you don't struggle with the flesh, you are deceived and deluded. In other words, you're a liar! The Bible says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
When you come to Christ, the guilt you have is taken away in Him. But because of that, you might think you're never going to struggle anymore with problems, sin, and temptation. In reality, you become a target of the devil because you have now defected from his camp! Before, he had you on his side, and he lied and told you, "Get 'spiritual,' get 'nice,' do anything but come to Jesus." And he and his demons didn't give you a standing ovation when you said, "Lord Jesus, be my Savior."
So now you're a target; they're after you. And when you come to grips with the truth of the continuing struggle with sin, you say, "What do I do now?"
Some people resort to legalism. They say, "I'll keep all the Law and the Commandments. I'll do everything good." They try to uphold holiness, and at the same time they become very critical of people who don't do everything right and perfect. That's like the Pharisees, and Jesus said to them, "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me'" (Matthew 15:7-8, NIV).
Legalism is like being bound. You're tied to a block of cement that drags you down. Legalism doesn't help free you from sin. You feel condemned all the time ... and frustrated ... and miserable.
Others decide they'll go it alone, or practice the "do-it-yourself" brand of Christianity. They say, "I'll kind of set my own rules, pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I can conquer it. I can deal with it. I have more perseverance than most." And these people, too, are very frustrated and miserable.
Paul finally comes to the place where he cries out, "Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25). That's the key: You cannot do it alone!
One of the truths of Romans is that there is nothing within ourselves that is of any value to procure our own right standing before God. Paul came to this truth: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells" (Romans 7:18). C.S. Lewis put it very simply: "No amount of bad eggs can create a good omelet."
So no matter how many good things you think you see in yourself, obeying the Law and self-effort do not conquer sin. Only the power of Jesus Christ conquers sin. So Paul's words should be our prayer every day: "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"