“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
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 18:25
Huh?? Yeah. I know…had to read it several times myself, talk to my spiritual advisor and even break out the good ole’ study bible and the online bibles so I could read a couple other versions. Let me decipher how I interpret this:
First, recall that the flesh and the spirit are in constant battle. (“For 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) Sin comes from flesh, not our spirit. Our spirit is what knows what is right and good. When the author first talks about nothing good living in him, he means the sin of the flesh. (But God lives in each of us so there is something good, very good. The spirit. We just need to listen to it more. And I think that is the point.) The author is saying he’s human too. He understands how hard it is. He’s saying we want to do what is right, we want to make God proud, but we don’t. We excuse it, justify it, or even ignore it because the enjoyment is too cotton-pickin’ alluring. And I don’ think he’s saying that we have no control, I think he feels that we all feel that way sometimes. Change is hard and changing behaviors that we’ve become so accustom to over time, even when they are harmful to us, is extremely hard. We have to realize that we allow the flesh to win and it’s the flesh that we have to overcome.
He’s dead on about being miserable. There is a war waging inside us. No wonder I feel like I’m going crazy sometimes!! As children we are told what to do, or not do. Even though we pout, moan and groan, hopefully we listened and were spared from the wrath of a bad decision. (No wonder we love our parents even more as we get older and have kids of our own.) As I became an adult, I had to discern for myself what was right and wrong. Some of my decisions didn’t result in immediate spankings, but my spirit took one heck of a beating. I became accustom to the pain of my decisions. Yet as I came to know God, justifying them became harder. I realize now that it’s not the world’s fault. It’s not my parents fault. It’s not anyone else’s fault – it’s the result of my decisions. I let my flesh have control. Well, I need to let my spirit rule me, not my flesh.
I love the saying “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” It’s just a matter of retraining ourselves: being our own ‘parent’ of sorts. Better yet, we need to remember God is our Father. He’s already told us what is right and wrong. He’s not standing over us harping, nagging, asking why the heck we keep screwing up and not listening to Him. There truly is a battle going on. We’re not crazy.
God’s law tells us lying is wrong, coveting is wrong, pornography is wrong, excess is wrong, adultery is wrong, but the sinful side of us wants it, desires it even if just for the temporary thrill it provides to do such things. Temptation is so incredibly hard to resist. Yet, we must remember that if we chose to do what is wrong, we will pay for it…one way or another. As the author states, we are slaves to sin. We have an indirect order from God, He gives us the free will to make our own decisions, and as we all know, all decisions result in consequence…some of which are dire.
He wants us to do what is right…He longs for it. When we ache, He aches. He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to ask Him for help. He wants us to learn to listen to our spirit. So I echo the verse “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord”. YES IT IS! Turn to God. Through Him, all things are possible…even change.