The Christian’s Struggle Against Sin

Romans 7:14-25 NIV [14] We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. [15] I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. [16] And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. [17] As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. [18] For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. [21] So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. [22] For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; [23] but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. [24] What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? [25] Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

INTRODUCTION

What I intend to do in this message is to give a balanced picture of the Christian life – one that is neither overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic; rather, a balanced view. The Christian life is a mixture of victory and struggle. At this time we will focus on the struggle aspect of the Christian life.

I. BE REALISTIC, BECAUSE THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

Regeneration does not mean eradication.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV [17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Romans 7:14 NIV [14] We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

I still live in this body which is subject to sin and death, although at the same time I am now a citizen of heaven and I belong to the realm of the Spirit. It’s like being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.: You’re legally no longer a Filipino, but ethnically and culturally, you can’t just shed these traits off all at once.

In Christ, we’re free in the sense that Christ has given us a new destiny which sin can’t reverse; but we’re slaves to sin in the sense that it’s still possible for us to sin and we still have sinful desires that won’t just go away, even though they can be weakened and we don’t have to give in to them.

We are no longer in the flesh, (you’re no longer under its jurisdiction, because you’ve transferred your citizenship and allegiance to the realm of the Spirit) but we still have the flesh.

1 John 1:8,10 NIV [8] If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [10] If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Here are some consequences flowing from the fact that we’re still of the flesh and have to struggle against sin.

CONFUSION

Romans 7:15 NIV [15] I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

CONFLICT

Romans 7:18-20 NIV [18] For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do- –this I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Galatians 5:17 NIV [17] For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

CAPTIVITY

Romans 7:23 NIV [23] but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

It’s not just that you experience conflict, you succumb to your sinful urges and actually commit sin.

CRY OF DESPAIR

Romans 7:24 NIV [24] What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

Sin is the Christian’s greatest sorrow.

II. BE HOPEFUL, BECAUSE VICTORY IS SURE.

Romans 7:25 NIV [25] Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

IT IS CHRIST, THE VICTOR, WHO DELIVERS US.

1 John 3:5 NIV [5] But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.

1 Peter 2:24 NIV [24] “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 John 3:8 NIV [8] The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

By his resurrection he has begun the work of destroying the works of the devil, namely, disease, disharmony, decay, death, etc.

THE VICTORY HAS BEGUN.

Philippians 1:6 NIV [6] being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

THE VICTORY IS STILL TO BE COMPLETED.

1 Corinthians 15:53-57 NIV [53] For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. [54] When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [55] “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:10-11 NIV [10] But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. [11] And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

III. BE STEADFAST BECAUSE THE STRUGGLE IS ONGOING.

Romans 7:25 NIV [25] Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Note how anti-climactic the conclusion is.

Because we’re still waiting for the completion of Christ’s victory, in the meantime we continue to struggle and fight against sin.

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 NIV [25] For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. [26] The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 NIV [54] When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [55] “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [58] Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Your labor in the Lord also includes your struggle against sin, and your struggle is not in vain because even though sin succeeds in killing your body, it cannot reverse your glorious destiny. In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, you will rise again with glorified bodies that can no longer sin and can no longer die!

But is that all? Yes, there’s complete victory someday. But what about the present. Shall I always be defeated by sin? Am I struggling in vain in the present?

No. Our present struggle is not in vain, despite how frustrating it oftentimes feels. We should not be discouraged by the severity of our present struggle because –

OUR ACCEPTANCE IS NOT BASED ON OUR PERFORMANCE.

Romans 8:1-4 NIV [1] Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [2] because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. [3] For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. God accepts us on the basis of what Christ did for us. He accepts us despite our sinfulness, because of Christ’s perfect righteousness which has been credited into our account by faith.

“God will graciously pardon those sins to his people that he will not in this life effectually subdue in his people.” (Thomas Brooks)

So even though Christians sometimes fail in their struggle against sin, God will not condemn them. Therefore, they should not be discouraged. But there’s more.

OUR OBEDIENCE IS ASSISTED BY THE SPIRIT.  

Romans 8:9-13 NIV [9] You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. [10] But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. [11] And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. [12] Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. [13] For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

CONCLUSION

The Holy Spirit is the key to overcoming sin.

Galatians 5:16-17 NIV [16] So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Even though it is not given to us to experience complete victory in this life, we can experience partial and even frequent victory. This may not be complete victory but it is significant victory.

Romans 8:23-26 NIV [23] Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. [24] For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? [25] But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. [26] In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

SUMMARY OF ROMANS CHAPTERS 6, 7 AND 8

We are dead to sin, because sin has been defeated on the cross.

But we still struggle against sin because sin has not yet been destroyed.

Nevertheless, we can experience partial but significant victory against sin because we have the firstfruits of the Spirit (i.e., the downpayment, with the balance still to come) who helps us in our weaknesses.

Or, to put it another way —

Sin no longer has the ascendancy because it has been defeated on the cross;

But sin is still a possibility because sin has not yet been destroyed.

Nevertheless, sin is no longer a necessity because we have the Spirit who helps us in our weaknesses.

And someday sin will no longer be a reality because when he returns Jesus Christ will put all his enemies – sin and death included – under his feet.

So be realistic because sin is still there; at the same time be hopeful because Christ is there on the throne reigning and waiting until all his enemies are put under his feet; and finally be steadfast, because the Holy Spirit is there to help us in our weakness.

“It is better to limp along the way than to run in the opposite direction.” (Augustine)

“It is better to rise up than to give up.”

(A message given to the congregation of Ikthus East Bacolod City on September 29, 2019 during the 10:00 a.m. Worship Service.)

Photo by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Author: attycortes

Filipino lawyer, preacher, composer.

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