In the following chapter in Romans, chapter eight, Paul lays out the solution to this dilemma every Christian faces; wanting to obey God, but being powerless within themselves to do so. He writes:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For want the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, I order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4 NIV
The solution to the Christian’s dilemma is to allow Christ Jesus through the law of the Spirit of life to set us free from the law of sin and death. Put another way, we must let Jesus live out His life in us through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul calls “walking in the Spirit.” He further elaborates on this in his letter to the Galatians.
“This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Galatians 5:16-17
In the New Testament several expressions are actually referring to the same experience; abide in Christ, Christ abides in you, walk in the Spirit, Christ in you, we have the mind of Christ, etc. They all refer to Christ living out His life in you through the Holy Spirit.
Am I Really a Christian?
When the Christian experiences the struggle with sin and often looses the battle he is tempted to question if he is really a Christian. At such times it is important to remember that it is your heart felt desire to obey God that gives evidence of the Spirit’s presence in your life. And if you have the Spirit of Christ you belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). It is because you are a Christian that you are having this struggle.
It is also very important to remember that God understands the struggle you are having with sin. It is because of His Spirit dwelling in you that you are having the struggle. You now have the born again spiritual nature along with your natural born sinful nature dwelling in you. These two natures are in constant conflict. From the moment of your new birth you have been covered with the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:19; 10:4). Christ has freed you from the guilt and penalty of sin (Isaiah 53: 5-6, Romans 3:28). The struggle you have with your sinful nature does not change that fact.
If you struggle with sin and you fail Jesus Christ is still your “advocate with the Father” (1John 2:1). When you fall into sin the Spirit convicts you of your erring ways and you confess the sin. Immediately you are forgiven (1John 1:9).
So do not let Satan take from you the assurance of salvation you have in Christ (1John 5:11-13); what Paul calls the “helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). You may have struggled with some besetting sins for years and have yet to gain the complete victory. Remember, when Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times Jesus told Peter to forgive them seventy times seven. If Peter would have asked about eight times Jesus would have said eighty times eight. The point Christ was making is that the Christian is to forgive someone as many times as they ask us to forgive them. God is no less forgiving than He requires us to be. As often as we ask God to forgive us He forgives.
This is the same struggle J. Hudson Taylor experienced described in the introduction of this book. For years he faced failure and defeat not being able to achieve the victory over temptation and sin he so desperately longed for. As his letter to his mother stated, he at times questioned if he was really a Christian, and then he would fall back on the assurance of the salvation he had in Christ. This struggle continued until he discovered the marvelous truth of what it means to abide in Christ and let Him live out His life in him. From that moment forward he was a new man in Christ.