The Struggle With Sin

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (v. 15).

- Romans 7:13–25

Although the Methodist revival produced much good fruit in the eighteenth century, there was one aspect of the teaching of John Wesley that was very unfortunate and that led to evil fruit. That was his doctrine of sinless perfection. Wesley taught that it was possible for a believer to become so sanctified that he could become perfect in this life—though he never made any such claim for himself.

Out of this Wesleyan error sprang various “holiness” groups, often associated with old-line Pentecostalism. In his rewarding but sobering book Holiness: The False and the True, H. A. Ironside delineates the sad effects of this doctrine. Basically, it causes a seared conscience, because people are told that as a result of a “second blessing” they are now perfect and are not to examine themselves. They become hardened to sin.

The apostle Paul had no such teaching. In Romans 7, he describes his own struggle in the Christian life, and he writes this as an example for us. He points out that within himself there were desires for righteousness, but also dark desires for sin. Indeed, when he least suspected it, the lust for sin raised its ugly head, and he fell. His ultimate and true self was renewed in Christ and hated these sins, yet again and again he fell into them.

There is no quick-and-easy answer to this struggle. Indeed, we shall struggle with sin all our lives. As images of the infinite God, we are very profound and complex beings, and sin effects us in ways we are not even able as yet to recognize.

Thus, the struggle will go on, but there are ways to fight sin. Paul says that “in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22). The way to grow in strength against sin is to feed our relationship with Christ while starving our desires for sin. We starve our desires for sin by repenting and refusing to sin (an act of our wills assisted by the Spirit), thereby building resistance. We feed our relationship with Christ by studying the Bible, filling our minds with biblical truth through prayer, and spending time with the three persons of our God. It is when we look outside ourselves and our depravity that we find hope—when we focus on our Savior (Romans 7:24–25).

Coram Deo

How is your personal walk with the Lord? Have you become calloused to the evils of sin manifest in you own life? Have you forgotten to spend time with Him? It is as we love Him more and more that we will resist the tendency to displease Him. Renew your personal acquaintance with your Master.

Passages for Further Study

Matthew 13:1–30
Luke 10:38–42
Acts 3:19

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