Do you ever feel trapped and entangled by sin?
I wish I could say that since coming to a saving faith, I have found complete freedom from sin. I wish I could say with honesty that my entire life has been a reflection of Romans 6:11 – “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” But sadly, that’s not the reality of my life.
Sure, I have found freedom in certain areas. I used to be a very angry man, and by God’s liberating grace, that anger has disappeared. I used to be captivated by certain pleasures, and by God’s enabling grace, I've been able to discipline myself. But even yet, after all these years of experiencing God’s faithfulness, I still find myself trapped and entangled.
Why is it that we struggle day after day? And how do we ultimately break free? That’s what this article is about.
THREE QUALITIES OF SIN
In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul records this famous autobiographical debate:
“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?” (Romans 7:21-24, ESV)
In this passage, Paul makes three insightful observations about the nature of sin and why we continually struggle.
1. Sin Is a Law (v. 21)
Like gravity, sin is an inescapable life principle that you cannot escape by the power of your personal will. If you decided to fly to work tomorrow morning, and if you decided to launch yourself out the second-story window in an attempt to fly … well, we all know what the result would be.
Just like you cannot escape the pull of gravity on your person, you cannot escape the magnetic power of sin on your heart. From the moment you entered earth until the moment you depart, the sin remaining in your heart will magnetize you to the evil surrounding you.
2. Sin Is a War (v. 23)
Wars break out because two parties disagree vehemently. In the case of spiritual warfare, the law of sin disagrees with the law of God. Like Paul, while we have the desire to delight in the law of God, we still have the tendency to act out of the law of sin.
Every day, a war rages on the turf of your heart. Your thoughts, desires, words, and actions reveal that the war is far from over. Of course, there will be moments when you find victory over sin, but there will be equally as many moments when you suffer defeat once again.
3. Sin Is a Prison (v. 23)
The Apostle Paul describes himself as a captive – one held against his will. I think all of us, if given the choice, would choose complete freedom from sin. Sometimes I wish I was zapped into eternity the moment I accepted Christ. But in his eternal and infinite wisdom, God has chosen for me to remain in a world where sin is a law and sin is a war.
Sin has an ensnaring and enslaving nature. What once started as a minor struggle transforms into an addictive and destructive habit. Even if we break free from one prison cell of sin, it seems as if we’re stumbling back into a different cell shortly thereafter.
THREE REASONS TO HOPE
Let's be honest - there hasn’t been anything hopeful about this article so far! It feels appropriate that Paul finishes his debate with a despairing cry: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24) Can you relate to those words? I surely can.
But we can’t stop there. Thankfully, Romans 7 has a 25th verse - “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Despite the law of sin that pulls us down, despite the war of sin that wages in our heart, and despite the prison of sin that keeps finding a way to hold us captive, we have reasons to be thankful and reasons to hope.
Isn’t it so encouraging that the next thing to follow Romans 7 is Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In all of my dirtiness and struggle, I can stand before a holy God because I’ve been completely forgiven.
Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Today, you can resist the gravitational pull of sin, and you experience victory in the war again sin, not because you’re awesome and righteous, but because the living God is alive and active within you. You have a brand new potential from yesterday.
You can experience deliverance in this life, if you ask God humbly, tear down your façade of self-righteousness, and run unashamed to the body of Christ for assistance. But that deliverance won't be complete until the second coming of Christ. One day, the law of sin will be eradicated. One day, we will no longer be captives. I can't wait until that day!
I don't just want to leave you with principles, so here are three brief takeaways that you can apply to your life, right here, right now:
1. Don’t beat yourself up with guilt. If Christ provides forgiveness, acts of penance are worthless. Don't be satisfied with who you are as a sinner, but don't live in guilt and shame any longer. Jesus paid it all.
2. Don't give up so easily. If Christ provides empowerment, you have new potential every day. Even if you said yes to sin 10 minutes ago, you can say no to the same sin this time around because the power of Christ dwells within you.
3. Don't fight the war alone. If Christ provides deliverance, take advantage of his resources of deliverance. Call a brother or sister today and confess that you've been trapped and entangled by the same sin for too long and watch what God will do.
Yes, it's true -- like Paul, you and I are wretched Christians. But what's equally as true are the words of John Newtown: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."