When I was a kid, like any kid I had rules that I was supposed to follow. Sometimes, I looked at the rules and, in my judgment, the rules were arbitrary things that were put in place to keep me from doing something I wanted to do. “The man is just trying to keep me down”: The “man” being my parents. Kids think they know so much more than their parents.
Our house was on a lot that was set about 15 feet above the street, so there was this nice hill to roll down on our little soapbox type go-kart that my dad and I built. My mother told us not to do that, because we wouldn’t be able to stop. The kart didn’t have any brakes and we would roll down the hill into the street, if a car was coming it could be very dangerous. We tried to obey that rule, but we struggled. It was a battle to keep from doing what we knew we shouldn’t do.
Many times as adults, we fight these same battles, not with rules that our parents or bosses put on us, but with sin. We know that sin is wrong; we understand the cost that it has, but sometimes the desire is too strong.
I was thinking about Eve as she faced the serpent in the Garden. God has told her not to eat the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She knows that it’s wrong, but when the devil comes in and lays out the lie she goes right ahead and eats it, anyway. I wonder if his is the first time she’s struggled with temptation over this fruit, or if she was already struggling with the temptation, when she was talking to the serpent.
Satan doesn’t always have to make us sin, sometimes it’s our flesh and our own nature that draws us into sin. She’s seen the fruit before: the Bible says that she saw that it was good for food. Maybe she’s struggling with idea a bit. Then the serpent comes up and says, “Did God say you’d die if you ate that? You’re not going to die,” so she ate it. We don’t see in the Bible that she struggled much with the decision to eat the fruit. I think that perhaps the struggle had been taking place before the serpent showed up.
Eve had the capacity to sin, already. The serpent didn’t really tempt her; he just laid out a good justification for her: “He doesn’t want you to be like him. The man just wants to keep you down.” So, she jumped on it.
We fight this battle ourselves, to overcome the flesh; overcome the temptation to do what isn’t right.
Romans 7:18-25 (NKJV)
7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
In my Flesh Nothing Good Dwells
When the Bible refers to our flesh, what it’s really referring to is our carnal nature; our physical appetites: Those things that drive us; the things our bodies crave. Human beings are set up with survival mechanisms. Those are things that are a part of us in order that we can preserve ourselves. We have a sexual drive, because we need that to keep our species alive. We desire food because we need food to sustain our lives. Sin is when we allow those drives to control us. There is nothing wrong with sex in marriage, but fornication is a sin. There’s nothing wrong with eating, but gluttony is a sin. The devil doesn’t make us sin, he merely places the opportunity before us. It’s up to us whether or not we’ll act on it.
When I first got saved I was really lonely. I hadn’t had a relationship with anyone in a long time. Almost as soon as I got saved, there were some women who wanted to be with me. I had struggled with that for a long time, now the opportunity was right before me. There was a struggle but I won out over my flesh. That’s the way the devil works, our flesh is looking for gratification, and suddenly that thing, which will provide that gratification is right before us.
You struggle with finances and then you have access to company money. People steal from their jobs all the time, for exactly this reason. You and your wife are having problems in your relationship and that single girl at work that you’ve always thought was attractive suddenly comes on to you. You start to wonder, “Can I get away with this?” It’s not like that cartoon where the devil is one shoulder saying “do it, do it!” and an angel is sitting on the other shoulder saying, “Don’t do it, don’t do it!”
You begin to rationalize it to yourself. “The company doesn’t pay me what I’m really worth. My wife doesn’t understand me. I deserve to relax and get drunk; I work too hard.” That’s not the devil you’re fighting with, it’s your flesh.
It isn’t that we don’t want to do what is right; most of us genuinely desire to be righteous in our decisions and actions. Even sinners speak of being morally right. We want to do the right thing, but many times we sin anyway, and we justify it. Sometimes we even feel compelled to do it; we call it an addiction. We call sin disease or addiction because that takes away the responsibility to overcome it. You need to be treated for a disease, right? It’s beyond your control, right? It is something that’s outside of you.
When I got saved I was a drunk, but I didn’t need a program to stop drinking, I just began to fight with my desire to drink. When the urge and the opportunity came up, I used the tools of my salvation – Prayer, the Bible, fellowship and preaching.
It’s a fight; a struggle. Have you ever watched a WWE wrestling match? WWE is a perfect example, because each match is a battle between good and evil. Both wrestlers are fighting for the upper hand. One will move one way, the other will try to counter it. Sometimes, we can easily beat the devil, but other times we have to fight it out with him. That’s exactly how it is when the opportunity to sin is placed before us – It’s a real fight – Sin is aggressive.
Genesis 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
The idea behind the word “lies” in that scripture is that sin is like an animal crouching at the door ready to spring on us, if we open door to it. We open the door through our flesh. Paul says, “If I do what I will not to do then it is not me, but the sin that dwells in me.” It’s that carnal nature; it’s the flesh in which nothing good dwells.
Romans 7:21 (NKJV)
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
Even though, we desire to do well there is evil present with us. This is a law. Scientists understand that there are certain physical laws, and those laws are always true. For example, there is the law of gravity that states that the attraction between any two bodies is directly proportional to product of their masses and inversely proportional to their distance from each other. That means that planets are more attracted to each other based on what they both weigh and less attracted based on how far away they are. The moon orbits the earth, because the earth has a huge mass and the moon is relatively close to it. This law is ALWAYS true and it is the reason that what goes up must come down. The lighter body; that which is thrown, is attracted to the heavier body that is the earth, because it never gets very far from the earth.
Paul is telling us that in every one of us there is a will to do what is right but there is also a desire for evil. Philosophers have said that man is basically good, but Paul tells us that we want to be good but that we’re basically evil. We can desire to live the will of God: We can desire to live for Jesus, but that the nature of man, that sin nature, is still present in us. Nothing I ever easy, is it?
I wonder how many times a day that we struggle with sin. How many times a day do we want to leap out in our flesh? When that idiot cuts us off on the freeway? When the boss is gone and we can sneak away from work a little early – “Who will know if I put the full number of hours on my time card?” “I’m alone who’s going to see what I’m looking at on my computer?” “How’s my wife going to know that I’m flirting with that woman in the cubicle next to mine?” We struggle with it and sometimes we lose to our flesh.
I Delight in the Law of God but…
Romans 7:22-24 (NKJV)
For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
“I delight in the law of God…” That word delight literally means that it’s a great pleasure to serve God. We enjoy doing the right thing. Paul says, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” That phrase, “according to the inward man” means from the bottom of my heart.” That is, the thing which he desires most is the joy; the delight of doing the will of God. But…
He finds there is one thing in his heart, but another in his members, (meaning his body parts). It’s a joy to live for Jesus but there’s a constant tension with our flesh. Paul has certain appetites; certain things that must be overcome. The problem is when those appetites win out over our minds.
We go on diets and our minds tell us what a great thing it will be to lose weight. It will be a great joy to come to our target weight; to be healthy and look good. That’s thing we desire from the bottom of our hearts. So then why do we, so badly want to grab a dish of ice cream.
It’s because we have developed an appetite for it. We allow our minds to dwell on it. “That ice cream looks so good and it’s so sweet.” This is where we lose the victory a lot of times. Suddenly, we’re fighting this battle with our flesh with only half of our mind, because the other half is thinking how good the sin will feel. That’s why Paul asks, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Here’s the concept behind what he’s saying: One of the ways that the Romans punished lawbreakers was to tie a dead body to the one being punished; face to face, hand to hand, and foot to foot. They would have to go through life with this dead, putrefying, decaying body tied to them. Paul is saying that this is a picture of our sin nature; that we are tied together with the sins of the flesh – That eventually, just as the person being punished in this way by the Romans, died. This sinful flesh will kill us as well. We need deliverance from it.
We need to be released from the hold of this body of death. He’s saying that you can struggle against it; you can fight for life, but eventually the flesh will overwhelm you and you’ll be destroyed by it, unless something takes place that releases you from it. This is the crux of the matter, right here, that we’ll eventually do what our flesh wants, unless we’re delivered from it.
Where does deliverance come from? It’s not found in our willpower. It’s not found in our personality. It’s not found in our physical or mental strength. It’s outside of us. Just as those who couldn’t untie the dead body and remove themselves, neither can we loose ourselves from our flesh. There’s something that must take place outside of us. Something supernatural must happen in our lives.
Jesus delivers me From This Body of Death
Romans 7:25 (NKJV)
I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Jesus Christ is the deliverer. He does it through the renewal of our minds.
Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The word renewing speaks of restoring. The renewing of our minds is the restoration of our minds to the way God intended in the Garden before sin. If in our minds we delight to live the Law of God, then when we sin or are in our flesh, we are out of our minds. Salvation restores our minds. It brings us back to that place of delight in serving God. Jesus is the one who will deliver you from the body of death. His grace, his mercy and shed blood is what releases us – It isn’t us, it’s the spiritual transaction that took place when He died on
We still have a responsibility, though:
Titus 3:8 (NKJV)
3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
If we believe God, then we should live for him. When we were sinners how many of us lived all the way, one hundred per cent, for the devil. That struggle is still present with us but we have the tools of our salvation with which to fight the fight.
When we pray, we strengthen our relationship with God. This is where we begin to have relationship with Him. Think about this – If we know someone, but never speak to them it isn’t much of a relationship, is it? But as we talk we get to know them better and a relationship forms. This is essential to avoiding sin.
When we read the Bible we gain an understanding of the purposes of God for our lives.
When we fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ – Don’t run off and isolate yourself – When we have relationships with other saved people it becomes easier for us to stay in the will of God. We can avoid sin through “peer pressure.”
When we hear the word of God our faith is strengthened. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. Where do we hear the word of God? In Church, that’s where.
These things will allow your mind to be renewed. It will help you to overcome the flesh and you’ll be more likely to win the battle and serve God throughout your whole life.