When was the last time you felt like two completely different people?If you are anything like me, you felt that way recently—praising God one minute and fussing and fuming the next! Well, I have a word of comfort for every child of God who does not always act like a child of God . . . and wonders why.
In the 19th century, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a short suspense novel, titledThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson explored the concept of two different people living inside one body.In an effort to become a better person, Dr. Jekyll, a mild-mannered man of science, developed a potion that was meant to separate his “good self” from his “bad self.” After drinking the concoction, however,Dr. Jekyll’s bad side turned out to be much more evil than he had ever imagined. At night he becamethe mysterious Mr. Hyde, a violent man who cared only for his own desires.
When Dr. Jekyll realizedthe extent of his own depravity, he tried to clamp down on his Mr. Hyde side, resolving not to take the potion anymore.But Hyde had become too strong. Despairing of ever changing himself for the good, Dr. Jekyll took his own life.
I was reminded of this Jekyll-Hyde conflict as I prepared to preach a message titled “The Believer’s Battle,” which unpacked the ongoing struggle within the sinner-saint Paul described in the seventh chapter of Romans. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul confirmedwhat you and I experience every day: the truth that every Christian struggles with his “old self” (his sinful nature by birth) and his “new self” (his Spirit-filled nature by re-birth).
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.(Romans 7:15-19)
The greatest struggle Paul faced was not outside of him . . . and Paul’s life was marked by constant struggle!He was flogged, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times, he spent a night and a day in the open sea, he was imprisoned, falsely accused, went hungry and thirsty and cold, and he felt the weight of his concern for the purity,unity, and growth of all the fledgling Christian churches (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).And yet, as bad as all those hardships were, Paul’s inward struggle with indwelling sin grieved him far more.
However, Paul’s story does not end in tragedy like Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll. No, Paul’s story ends with sanctification and ultimately glorification when God brought him home.
To be sure, indwelling sin still remained in Paul, just as it remains in us, but it no longer reigned in him and one day it would be gone forever. Unlike Dr. Jekyll, Paul did not despair of ever changing himself for the good because the Holy Spirit was doing it for him.Paul was being conformed to the likeness of Christ daily, but along the way, he would battle with his old nature . . . and he would lose some of those battles.So will you and I. But the ultimate victory was assured because of the cross work of Christ.Paul knew his daily battle would not be won though his resolve but rather, through his trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.And what was true for Paul then is true for all of us today.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!