The War Within
Romans 7:14-24 (ESV)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 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. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Before I start this message, I have a confession that I would like to make. I have been a pastor here at First Fil-Am Baptist Mission Church… close to 3 years now. Been a Christian since 2004.
So…throughout my Christian walk, there is this guy that always seems to rub me the wrong way. Remember what I said last week, its wrong to use the word “Hate”, on anyone. But I tell you, this guy can really get under my skin. I can stay angry at him, most of the time. There would be sleepless nights caused by this guy. Man…he just really makes me miserable from time to time.
I would like to come clean this afternoon and tell you who he is. He is here every Sunday, he loves to worship. In fact he is here today. The guy that I am referring to is ME!!! I am my worse enemy. The guy I have more trouble with than anybody else is my wife’s first husband! That’s me. Do you know why? Because I really want to be the perfect husband, the perfect father, and I really want to be a perfect pastor! But sometimes my performance doesn’t match up with my desire. And of course there is no such thing as being PERFECT! Not while we are still in the flesh.
So… that becomes the real problem right. Thankfully, I am not the only one that has this problem. I am not the only one that has this problem from within. I’m sure many of you, if not all of you have this same problem. And guess what, the Apostle Paul had the same problem. If you are not going through anything that I had mentioned, then maybe you have discovered the secret to a perfect life that is not mentioned in the Bible.
Let us look at Romans 7, starting at verse 14…
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
See if we can relate to this personally. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh”. Which means carnal, still in the flesh, sold as a slave to sin. “15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”. As you can see, Paul used the word “HATE”, for his actions. He hated the sin. He was going through that battle from within. Then on verse 18, contains Paul’s self-evaluation. He says, “18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out”.
“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. WOW! Do you have that problem? We have the DESIRE to do what is good, but we cannot carry it out. Lets continue with our text. Let us look at the Apostle Paul’s struggle with himself… and maybe get the answers that we need, on why we do the things that we do…
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
So…we can see Pau’s frustration here. He wants to do good…he wants to do what is right, but he is struggling. He comes to the conclusion that there is The War Within. This is the Apostle Paul we are talking about here. The same Apostle Paul who wrote many of the books in the New Testament. The same Paul that planted churches in his lifetime. The same Paul that spent a lot of his life in prison for telling the truth about Jesus.
Is it even possible for the Apostle Paul…who did all those things in his lifetime, struggled with sin? Is it possible? YES! Were reading his story right now. By his story…hopefully will help us understand what we are going through. Paul is frustrated, he hates the things that he has done.
He was basically being hard on himself for his actions. He went through a stage in his walk where he felt he wasn’t good enough. Does this sound familiar in our walk? It should! For we are still in the flesh. There will always be The Battle Within! Let’s continue…
Paul says in verse…
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 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.
“Wretched man that I am”. That is a very harsh word.
Wretched: deeply afflicted, dejected, or distressed in body or mind
being miserable, or contemptible. very poor in quality.
This what Paul saw in himself. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” What options does he have? He knew he was still in the flesh, he knew the struggle that he was in, so his question remains… “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Who will deliver you and I, from this body of death? “25 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.”
Salvation need to happen to the sinner. Three things need’s to happen when a person gets saved.
First of all, in the past tense, if you are a Christian you have experienced “Justification” by faith.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Justification is when God looks at you because you put your faith in Jesus Christ and he declares you “legally righteous–justified.” That’s is not our righteousness, but it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we’re in. And he says, “You are not guilty.” What does justification do? Justification removes the penalty for sin. Do you know what the penalty for sin is? Death, hell, separation from God forever and ever. When you become a Christian, God says, “The penalty for sin? BOOM. It’s gone!” You are not guilty anymore, you have been set free!
Second, the present. The here and now. Why do I struggle still, when I am saved? we are all involved in a process that’s called ‘Sanctification”. If you don’t know what the word sanctification means, think of the other English word–‘sanitize.’ To sanitize something means to clean it up, remove the germs–and what God is trying to do right now is trying to clean us up, trying to make us more like Jesus Christ, and it is a process.
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
It is a process. What is he trying to do? He is delivering us from the power of sin because sin is still in our lives, even after receiving Christ, He is doing the process of delivering us from the power of sin. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that every born again Christian need to go through. That is why its called being “born again”. The Christian life starts at infancy, to grow into maturity. It’s a challenge church, a great battle. But we are not going through it alone. Look at the verse. Philippians 1:6… He (JESUS) who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Thirdly: Future tense? One day, when we die or we get caught up in the sky and meet Jesus Christ, we will experience what the Bible calls ‘Glorification.’ That’s when we will be delivered completely from the presence of sin because in heaven there is absolutely no presence of sin. The War Within is finished. From Sis Seini’s memory verse last Sunday.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
By God’s power, By His Spirit, because of His Son. This is possible for you and I. This is what every Christian long’s for. To fight the good fight, to finish the race. But let us go back to the second part… the Sanctification process, because that is after all where we are at right now.
God is trying to work on us to clean us up. One of the biggest problems we need to understand is what Paul wrote about here, “You know, I really want to do the right thing, but I find myself wanting to do the right thing but stumbling and doing the wrong thing.” He says, “I know all these things over here are wrong to do, and I don’t want to do them–but, sometimes I find myself accidentally and occasionally falling into those things.” Now, many have debated about whether Paul was writing these words as a Christian or was he describing a person who was not a Christian. I believe without a doubt he’s talking about a Christian.
Not only just a Christian…I think he’s describing the heart’s cry of a maturing Christian. A maturing Christian will struggle with sin. Notice I say “maturing”–it’s not something you ever reach. You never say, “I am a mature Christian” because it’s something you are always striving towards. Paul is saying a maturing Christian, number one, struggles with sin. He says, “There’s this war inside my body. There’s this war inside my mind. There’s a war inside my personality. There’s a good nature and there’s an evil nature–and they are fighting against each other.”
Now. I have said a maturing Christian struggles with sin. If you are an immature Christian, if you are someone who is stuck, no growth position at all, you don’t really struggle with sin. Do you know why? You are not aware of the demand for holiness on your life! So, you will just be having a good time and not even sense a desire to obey God in this conflict.
On one side we have the old nature “Who I was before I became a Christian.” When you become a Christian, you still have that sinful nature that’s there. That’s what Paul says in Romans 7:14…. “I am of the flesh”. “I am carnal–I am unspiritual.” We still have a human heart and the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9…
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
I think Paul’s struggle was that he was letting the “flesh” control his life. There is when you listen to your old sinful nature and you’ll find yourself falling into the works of the flesh, what the carnal life exhibits, until you get more and more like the devil. I do not believe a Christian can go all the way out there, because you can’t be born again and end up there, but you can move in that direction if you’re carnal, if you still want to follow the “flesh”, you see we have a new nature–a heart that’s been cleansed–and that’s been crucified with Christ. The results of the new nature we call the fruits of the Spirit. And the more the fruit of the spirit we exhibit, the more Christ like we are.
A maturing Christian seeks to serve God. Serving God does not necessarily mean you need to be in a ministry. You and I serve God daily in the way we live. It is the desire of a maturing Christian to obey God. The problem is that sometimes a carnal Christian becomes self-satisfied. They say, “Well, nobody’s perfect, so I’m just going to sin a little bit!” Justifying their actions. But a maturing Christian is never satisfied with sin in his or her life. There’s always a hatred of sin, always that tension they live with. There will always be that battle in the maturing Christian.
Put it this way, there is always The War Within, but who gets to win?
Here’s an illustration. And, I’m sure you have heard this story before…
There once was an American Indian who became a Christian and after he’d been a Christian for a number of years he told a missionary, “I’ve got a problem. It’s as if on the inside of me there are two dogs! One is a black dog who tells me to do wrong and one is a white dog who tells me to do right. These two dogs are constantly fighting for control.” The missionary asked the Indian, “Tell me, which dog wins the fight?” And the Indian said, “It’s the dog that I feed the most.”
In another illustration of this story wolves were used instead of dogs.
But, the truth still remains. This story may not be biblical, but it does have some biblical realities. If you keep feeding sin more, then sin would win, and then the process of sanctification was never present in your life. You were never really born again. On the other hand, if you keep feeding yourself the word of God, then the work of sanctification will be evident in your life, and you will continue to grow and finish the race. (Win the battle)
Let’s go back to our text. Do you remember what Paul said…
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Do you know what he’s talking about when he says, “body of death?” This is so graphic, but amazing. There are many Greek and Roman writers who tells us that back before the time of Christ there were some kings that were so cruel this is the way they would execute prisoners and criminals, they would take a corpse and they would, literally, chain it to the criminal to be executed! Face to face, shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-to-arm, leg-to-leg. They would wrap up a corpse with a living person.
Within just a matter of days, the living person would die because the living person couldn’t eat, could hardly walk around, and the corruption of that dead body would infect the living body! What a terrible way to die! That’s exactly the word Paul is using here when he says, “Who will deliver me from this body of death.” He says, “It’s so awful–it’s as if I’m carrying around a corpse–as if this old life is decaying and is infecting and corrupting me! This is so awful I can’t stand it!” And, by the way, you are never a maturing Christian until you come to that point like Paul did where you say, “This is awful. I can’t stand this tension. I can’t stand this body of death, who’s going to rescue me?” That is the battle that we are in daily. But Paul gives us an answer…
25 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.
He’s saying number one, Jesus has done it already. When Jesus died on the cross he died to take away this body of sin. Then he says, “The Spirit will do it whenever I allow the Spirit to do it.” The Spirit will keep on putting to death his old, sinful nature.
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Some of you are struggling with sin in your lives, including me, and sometimes the things you want to do you don’t do…the things you don’t want to do, you do! Do you think God is sitting here today condemning you and I for that problem? Then, let this verse be a reminder to you today.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death. You see, it is the Holy Spirit who is that other component that when the old nature says, “do wrong,” and your new nature says, “well I don’t want to do that,” it’s the Holy Spirit, when we surrender and yield to Him, who comes in and takes control.
And when the Spirit takes control, that is how we can win The War Within.
Pastor Richard Santos
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