As a young Christian, I was in a group that gathered weekly for the purpose of accountability. Every week we each talked about sins we were “struggling” with. Every week we would encourage each other to stop sinning, maybe even give some practical tips, then we would pray and end our time.
While I’m thankful for those times and confident that God used those moments to grow us, I can’t help but think that we could’ve pressed deeper into each other’s lives. Our conversations were shallow. Our gathering was like a confession booth that eased our consciences until our next meeting, but there was rarely, if ever, any real fighting against sin, pursuing holiness, or genuine repentance.
In Romans 7:7-8:1 the Apostle Paul writes of the Christian’s ongoing battle with sin.** From this passage we can draw out three questions that will help us understand what it truly means to fight against sin.
Question 1: Do you Actually Struggle With Sin
Romans 7 doesn’t describe someone who offers mere lip service to the struggle of sin. Instead, we read of one who recognizes how sin destroys: For sin, seizing and opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (7:11) Here is a man who sees his unholiness in light of the perfection of God’s standard, and the result is devastating.
Sin leads to death (v.13). The power of sin can leave a believer feeling helpless (v.18). This is not a mere verbal confession, but an intense and internal wrestling. Does this describe you? Are you someone who desires to “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey it’s passions?” (Romans 6:12) Or is that sin that you keep “struggling” with more of a friend than a foe?
Question 2: Why Do You Struggle With Sin?
For every Christian the answer is the same: the flesh. We have a sinful human nature that opposes the work of grace in our lives (v.14). Paul puts it this way in Galatians 5:17: For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
One of the most important components of any battle is identifying the enemy. In the Christian Life, one primary enemy is within us; our flesh. Knowing this prevents us from casting blame on others or even God for our sin (James 1:13-15). It also reminds us that the battle never ceases for us in this life.
Question 3: Where Will You Find Deliverance?
Listen to the sense of hopelessness in Romans 7. I have the desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (v.18-19) Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (v.24)
Have you been there? The same indwelling sin in your life rears it’s ugly head over and over again. You feel hopeless, as if there will never be any victory. What you do next is key. The victory over your sin will never come from your self-discipline or inner strength. Daily deliverance from the power of sin is found only in the person of Jesus Christ.
Let the refrain of verse 25 be a sweet song to the sin-fighting soul: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Read on into Romans 8 to find more power against indwelling sin: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (8:1) For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (8:13)
In Christ, there is once-for-all deliverance as well as the daily power of the Spirit to fight against sinful flesh. He has rescued us from captivity, enlisted us in his army, and secured the final victory, but we have yet to leave the battlefield. We must, by faith in Christ, wage war against our sin.
NEXT POST: There are a lot of helpful resources on what it means to fight against sin. I will compile a list of ones that I have found most helpful for the next post.
**There is also much debate about whether or not Romans 7:14-25 refers to the Christian. I believe it does. For more, see “John Piper’s 10 Reasons Why Romans 7:14-25 is About The Christian’s Experience.”