The Christian’s Struggle
I titled this chapter, “The Christian’s Struggle,” because the non-believer does not have the struggle that the Christian has. The unconverted man does not have the Spirit of God and is only controlled by his carnal mind. According to Paul the carnal mind is “enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). The non-Christian does not obey rules or laws because God has put it in his heart to do so. He obeys for personal, selfish reasons, because of social pressure, etc. Or perhaps he was raised in a principled home and has a conscience that leads him to live a respectable life. Ellen White wrote of this kind of obedience.
“It is true that there may be an outward correctness of deportment without the renewing power of Christ. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions.” Steps to Christ, p.58
The Christian on the other hand obeys God because the Spirit of God has put the desire to obey in his heart (Romans 6:17). The born again individual very much wants to carry out God’s will in their life. Paul calls this delighting “in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). Under the new covenant promise the Holy Spirit begins writing God’s law in their heart and mind (Hebrews 8:8-10, 2Corinthians 3:3). However, the new believer discovers very quickly that there is another very strong desire in him; the desire for sin. Now that he has the Spirit of God he is aware of his sinful desires where before many of those desires didn’t really concern him.
The War Within
So the Christian discovers that there are now two natures residing in him; one that desires to follow sin and the other that desires to obey God. Paul very clearly describes this intense conflict experienced by every Christian when he wrote:
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
“So I find this law at work; When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!
“So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:14-25 NIV
I am sure that every reader can identify with the struggle Paul describes. Christians often experience this struggle day after day, month after month and year after year, and never obtain the victory they want to have over sin. Every Christian is well aware of the fact that there is a “law of sin” dwelling within them, which is “waging war against” the God given desire to obey His law. As Paul stated; he “delighted in God’s law.” He very much wanted to obey God in all things. However, he found that it was impossible for him to do that. His sinful nature constantly sought to make him a “slave to the law of sin.”
When a Christian experiences this intense struggle with sin in his life Satan comes along and tells him that he isn’t even a Christian. The truth is that this struggle is evidence that one is a Christian. Non-Christians don’t have this kind of struggle with sin. It is because the Christian has accepted Christ and takes the sin problem in his life seriously that he has this struggle.
Recognizing the impossibility of obeying God due to the power of sin in his life Paul cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Every sincere Christian has expressed this same crying out to God. Paul then declares that deliverance from the law of sin can only happen “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Nothing but the baptism of the Holy Spirit can bring up the church to its right position, and prepare the people of God for the fast approaching conflict.” Letter 15, 1889
I pray that you will take God’s instruction seriously. If you are not daily claiming the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit do not let another day go by without seeking this marvelous blessing. For the Spirit’s infilling brings all other blessings to you.
Next Time The Solution to the dilemma every Christian faces