Preparation and Persistence…Not Perfection!

When was the last time you read through the seventh chapter of Romans? I hope you don’t have to blow the dust off in order to read it! For the committed Christian, this is one of the most comforting chapters in all of sacred Scripture.

In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  (Romans 7:22-23)

Before we get into Paul’s ongoing struggle with sin, make sure you pause and reflect on the opening words of this passage. Paul’s delighted in God’s Law in his inner being. The “inner being” Paul is describing is the new nature that was changed when he was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. The inner being is the core of his changed heart that was changed by the grace of God.

When Paul goes on to talk about the “members of my body,” he is speaking about his old corrupt nature that is still alive and kicking. So what Paul is saying is there is an ongoing struggle, a war if you will, raging inside of him. The new nature desires what is good and pleasing to God. The old nature desires what is pleasing to the sinful self. Paul wrote to the Galatians about this battle: “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17).

The key here is to see that when Paul says that his delight is in God’s law, he is telling us there is nothing more he desires to do than to please God. Yet there are times when fails to do so.

This chapter and this truth is to be a comfort to every committed Christian. The Christian life on this side of the grave is not about perfection. Paul was not perfect, yet his heart desired nothing more than to be perfect. But he realized that until he reached the other side of the grave, he would be in a battle for control of his heart. To be sure, this chapter is not about a Christian lying in the ashes of continual defeat. But it is about a Christian not living in continual victory. However, the victory is ultimately assured.

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)

To be sure, the war was won on the cross. Jesus nailed sin and death to that dirty tree, and they no longer reign in our lives. But make no mistake, sin still remains and it will do everything it can to make life miserable for us. Because we will deal with our ongoing struggle with sin the rest of our lives, we never graduate beyond our need of the Gospel.

The Gospel is for sinners, and we are still sinners after we have been saved! We are sinners, by nature and sinners by habit, slowing and progressively being conformed into the image of Christ. Like the apostle Paul, we must be disciplined in preparing for the war we face and persistent in the battles we engage in daily. But we should never be surprised or overcome by our lack of perfection. That day of perfection will come. The One who began the good work in us promised to finish it (Philippians 1:6), but that won’t happen until we enter into our promised rest.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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