“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Romans 7:21-25 NLT
Paul continues with the dilemma we found in a previous blog. He refers to a power within him “that is at war with [his] mind”. There is almost a picture here of a person who, regardless of his heart-felt desires and preferences, is hooked on a drug we call sin. This “drug” is so powerful that there is no natural antidote. There is no rehab centre that could help. The addiction to this drug is beyond anything Paul, or any other human being, could overcome by sheer mental determination. Yes, there might be brief periods of freedom, allowing entry into God’s presence, but soon the “old man” raises his ugly head, and the hassle starts again. In sheer frustration Pail laments, “Oh, what a miserable person I am!” Other versions of the Bible refer to Paul as being “wretched”, surely an undesirable place to find himself. Paul’s loathing of his sinful self caused him to write in 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all”. The Apostle Paul, the worst of all sinners? Hardly. But that is how he saw himself.
It is true that when we pilgrims hold ourselves in the light of God’s presence, we come up against feelings of guilt. We feel grubby and unclean. The light of His purity and holiness just shows up all that is sinful in us. We can get to this place just by reading the Jewish Law, or the words of Jesus in Matthew 5-7. but there is also a “still small voice” within us, the Holy Spirit, who is quietly reminding us that doing what we know we shouldn’t, repeating a sin, is perhaps not right in God’s sight.
But suddenly, a thought, probably inspired by the Holy Spirit, bursts into Paul’s mind. He exclaims “Thank God!”, as he suddenly thinks, “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord”. Jesus is the answer. Had Paul taken a long time to get to this point in his life, or was he re-running the sequence of events for the benefit of his Roman readers? Probably the latter, but the revelation of the saving power of Jesus was real and life-changing to Paul. And it is to us as well.
Jesus told a man called Nicodemus what His mission was by coming to Planet Earth. We read in John 3:16-17, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”. Well worn verses of course, but they will never lose their power. Jesus had the answer to Paul’s dilemma, and He is the answer to ours as well. We will find out more in the days ahead.
Dear Lord Jesus. Thank You for coming to this Planet two thousand years ago. And by doing do You showed us the way back to a relationship with Your Father. We are so grateful. Amen.