“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Romans 7:18-24 ESV
These verses pretty much sum up Paul’s existence, my existence, and humanity’s existence. We see this played out throughout all the pages of the Bible, as Israel perfectly lived out their disobedience to God. Now on occasion, one or two would defy their nature and trust God. But for the most part, disobedience, rebellion, and sin marked their (and our) existence. It seems that no matter how hard they tried, humans were destined to keep obeying their flesh (sin nature). But Paul goes on…
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 7:25-8:1-4 ESV
Paul says that God knew our sin and the nature that bent us towards disobedience to Him, and He came up with a solution. His Son would do what we could not…He would obey in a way that we had not. So Jesus came and lived His life perfectly in every facet and fulfilled the demand that the law had put on us. (Side note: Jesus did not get rid of the demand for obedience, but the demand for condemnation because of our disobedience.) He knew that in and of ourselves we would never choose obedience. So He broke the curse of the law and then sent us help…
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Romans 8:9-11 ESV
So God gave us Himself…living inside of us…to fight against the flesh (sin nature) that dwells inside of us. No longer do we have to be bent towards our flesh. We can choose obedience because the Spirit of God dwells inside of us.
But it’s still not easy. It still feels like the Romans 7 passage…like a war, and it is. Our flesh is obstinate. But because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, we can choose obedience. It all hinges on our trust that God is looking out for us in all that He asks us to do. That’s why spending time with the Spirit, spending time in the Word, spending time in worship, spending time in prayer is so important…those are moments when we remember that God is trustworthy.