A. Do you ever struggle with the doing the right thing or making the right decision?
B. Do you ever feel as if you are losing the battle in obedience to God?
C. Do you ever feel guilty because you are still waging this war even though you have been a Christian for a long time?
D. The good news is that the struggle is evidence of our relationship. If it did not bother you to fail God, then you would be following the dictates of that sinful nature inherent from birth, and your actions would be evidence that you have never experienced the new birth.
E. While we might not enjoy the struggle, it does hold benefits for us.
I. The Believer’s Struggle With Sin (vv. 14-17)
A. Was Paul describing his current status or referring to his pre-salvation existence?
1. It would appear Paul’s struggle was a current struggle and not a reference to the time before he trusted Christ.
2. Prior to his trusting Christ there would not have been a struggle.
3. He would have had no inclination or desire to do good for he would have been following the dictates of his sinful nature which would have always taken him toward rebellion against God.
4. Since he had no relationship with God through Christ, this direction would not have bothered him.
5. This conclusion must be qualified somewhat. It is true that he was a religious leader and was no doubt intent on following God’s law, but his misunderstanding was later revealed when he came to know Christ. He, like most of the religious leaders, probably thought he was good while looking down on others.
6. That the struggle concerns him is evidence he is speaking of a present state.
7. The same is true for us. If we can sin and it doesn’t bother us it is evidence of alienation. John deals with this extensively in his epistle (I John).
8. On the other hand, if a struggle ensues when we do something God forbids or when we choose a direction against his will, it is evidence of belonging to Christ.
9. At that point, our conscience kicks in-that God instilled mechanism that is part of our human makeup and that his Spirit works through when we choose to disobey.
10. While believers and unbelievers alike have a conscience, and while God’s Spirit works to some degree even in the unbeliever’s, it is not the same work as that in the believer’s life.
11. So if you feel you are in a war zone most days that is good news. It signifies God is working in your life to mold and shape you in his Son’s image.
B. Paul’s perception of God’s law. (v. 14)
1. If the law stirs up our desire to sin, it must be defective.
2. Paul concluded that it wasn’t. Rather, the law is good because it demonstrates what God’s standards are.
3. While it doesn’t give us the power to obey them, it at least shows how far we are missing God’s mark.
4. In fact, the trouble is not with God’s law. He gave it, and in that sense it is perfect.
5. The trouble is with us and the sin nature that resides in us. It is not “the devil made me do it” but “I made me do it.”
6. We cannot pass the buck for sinful actions as Adam and Eve attempted to do. The buck stops with us.
7. “The Buck Stops Here” was a sign placed on President Truman’s desk, and it should be placed in our mind as well. We cannot blame anyone else other than ourselves for our sin.
8. James deals with this individual responsibility in his epistle when he writes; “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.” (1:14-15)
9. When Paul says he is sold into slavery and that sin is his master, this almost appears as if he is speaking of a prior Christ state but further consideration still seems to show he is in the present.
10. This may simply be a reference to the “flesh” which is our old pattern of living learned before Christ and the part that still gives us trouble after Christ.
11. It is the part of us that still wants to rebel and be independent of Christ’s rule and authority in our life.
12. Paul’s struggle is our own. While free from the power and penalty of sin, we still struggle with its presence.
13. Under grace, the law changes position. No longer is it our judge. It is now our guide for right living.
C. The Confusion of the Struggle (vv. 15-16)
1. Paul admits he does not understand himself. Have you ever felt the same way?
2. He wants to do the right thing but instead does the wrong thing.
3. He knows what he is doing is wrong, and the law confirms it, but he does it anyway.
4. His helplessness is attributed to the sin inside him. This is what James is referring to in the above mentioned verses.
5. Modern day believers are well familiar with this age old struggle-knowing the right thing to do or say but doing the opposite, then feeling badly for doing the wrong thing.
6. Knowledge of God’s law is not the answer. Paul was well familiar with God’s law since he was a Pharisee and had learned under great instructors.
7. Struggling with doing the right thing was not the answer. He discovered his own power was not enough for victory. He did things he did not even want to do.
8. Nor did the fact that he had committed his life to Christ eliminate the struggle.
9. We have no doubt learned the same lessons.
10. What we must understand is that while trusting Christ only involves a moment in time, learning to trust and follow him in obedience takes a lifetime.
11. Paul said in another place that he had learned to be content in all circumstances. (Philippians 4:12) Obedience is the same. It takes time and attention along with power from God.
12. In another place, Paul compares the Christian’s struggle to a race and fight (II Corinthians 9:24-27; II Timothy 4:7).
13. Paul’s conscience convicted him what he was doing was wrong, and in doing so, reinforced the goodness of God’s law since he felt bad about disobeying God’s law.
14. When our consciences are fed godly things-like the Word of God, it will be very sensitive when we act in a way contrary to God’s will.
15. In spite of his best efforts, Paul fell short of God’s standard. He explains the reason in verse 18 when he attributes his shortfalls to sin residing in him.
16. Even though God gives us a new nature, it does not negate the flesh or that side of us still struggling with doing the right thing.
17. Paul describes this same struggle in another of his epistles (Galatians 5:17). There he tells how the sinful nature desires what is contrary to what the Spirit wants.
D. The Background of the Struggle
1. Taking into consideration the overall teaching of Paul, how are we to interpret these verses that speak of his struggle.
2. Several positions have been taken as mentioned previously.
3. Paul is referring to how it was before Christ.
4. Paul may be referring to a backslidden Christian.
5. Paul was experiencing and informing about the normal Christian life-that it is one of struggle. This appears to be the best choice.
II. The Explanation Of The Struggle (18-24)
A. Our nature is the issue.
1. Continuing what he concluded in verse 17, Paul admits he is rotten through and through.
2. Statements like this make it tempting to believe Paul is referring to his preChrist condition since he readily teaches we are no longer under condemnation and that believers should live in a state of peace.
3. But again, Christ doesn’t remove our flesh because he gives us a new nature, nor does he erase the memory of bad habits we learned from past experience.
4. He does give us a new nature that instills a desire to obey him, but this does not take away our struggle.
5. The power of sin residing in us is the problem. It’s not circumstances or the devil-although both can make the temptation greater and circumstances are an avenue Satan works through.
6. The problem lies with us. We can’t blame our failures on anything or anyone else.
7. Remember also that not all agree our old nature is eradicated at the new birth but that we simply have a new nature added.
8. Others maintain the old nature is eradicated but that our current struggle is between the new nature and the flesh.
9. And it is entirely possible to view the flesh and old nature as interchangeable terms.
10. We are not made sinless or perfect at salvation. Any Christian, if honest, can attest to this conclusion.
B. Paul maintains nothing good dwells in his flesh. (v. 18)
1. We cannot please the goodness of God or meet his standards.
2. We are not as good as we should be.
3. We cannot be perfectly good or escape the struggle with sin.
4. Sin in us will lead to deterioration and decay even though we are being renewed in our spirit.
5. Perhaps a key Paul is not referring to his preChrist experience is his statement that the desire to do good is in him. This desire is not present in unsaved individuals.
6. He also states in verse 22 that he loves God’s law with all his heart.
7. Then in the next verse he says he is a slave of the sin within in. This seems to contradict what he declares in 6:1 that we are no longer slaves to sin as believers. Still yet, I think we are safe in concluding that Paul is describing a believer’s battle to obey God.
C. The war is in our mind (v. 18)
1. Remember Satan’s playground is our mind.
2. All temptation begins there as we think, then feel emotion and finally act.
3. We may assume the war begins at another place-such as in our emotions, but we always think before we act.
4. In a sense, we are “walking civil wars.”
III. Deliverance Comes In Christ (v. 25)
A. Paul gives the solution for the struggle.
1. The sin problem is solved through Christ.
2. On Calvary, he paid our sin debt, and we receive his forgiveness when we ask.
3. But at the same time Paul testifies doing that does not solve the struggle.
4. All of us are testimony to the truth of his statement.
5. The battle still rages but our ultimate victory is assured and temporal successes are experienced as well.
B. Daily solutions for the struggle.
1. We must fill our minds with the Word of God and bathe our decisions and actions with prayer.
2. Then when the temptations come, we will fight them in our mind with God’s Word which has been stored there, just as Jesus did.
3. We must learn to live with the constant guidance of God’s Spirit.
4. Having been touched by grace, our minds are now renewed.
A. Thank God for his gift of Christ to provide for our forgiveness.
B. Ask him to help you renew your mind daily with a good spiritual diet so you win the struggle with sinful temptations.