Who is your greatest enemy? I bet I can guess who it is. Is it Satan? What if I told you that there is someone else who is your greatest enemy. Want to know who it is? It’s you! Don’t get me wrong Satan is our enemy, but is he really our greatest? Paul answers this question for us very clearly in the 7th chapter of Romans.
Look what Paul pens for us this morning (v18) Our greatest enemy, however, lurks within. Human nature is inherently rebellious. Give us a law and we will see it as a challenge to break it. Isn’t that true when you’re driving? Isn’t that true when you see something you want and can’t have it? Isn’t that true when someone makes you angry over something that has no eternal value? Isn’t that true when you find more joy in something other than God. What’s amazing though all this is…. Jesus, however, forgives our lawbreaking and gives us the Holy Spirit. He imparts a new desire and ability so that our greatest pleasure becomes bringing pleasure to God.
But even though we have been born again, we are deeply aware of our inclination toward evil. This is our greatest enemy! Our flesh, our fallen human nature.
What do I mean by that? Our fallen and human nature naturally wants to do whatever is forbidden. “Me and I” are the pivot around which its argument revolves in chapter 7. “Me” the old humanness which has not yet been completely transformed. “ I” our new inner self no longer approve of the sin that still clings to our flesh. This chapter is about our battle we face against our flesh. The Law demonstrates for us our inability to follow and the more we try the more we fail. Because the flesh is at war within us. What is the natural man according to the scriptures?
We are natural born liars “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3
We are natural born sinners “How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!" Job 25:4-6
We are naturally born depraved “And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” Mark 7:20
Though this is our natural problem, Paul reminds us of the solution at the end of this chapter. But before we get there we need to understand something important! Though we are naturally depraved this means “twisted or bent”. The simple explanation of “depravity” is that mankind has fallen from the original state of righteousness. And that our nature has become corrupt. But understand this when you hear the word “depraved" This means we are not as bad as we could be! This means we are not incapable of demonstrating virtue. This means we are not incapable of possessing a conscience, or that we are totally insensible to good and evil.
What this does mean though……
We have seriously defaced, disfigured and are polluted with moral corruption.
We are hostile towards God and prone towards sin.
We are not prompted by any love of God when we do things according to the flesh.
We are incapable to free ourselves from our sinful and depraved condition.
See this becomes a battle ground for many Christians who are willing to amid it.
They fail so much they begin to doubt the love of God for their life.
I’m here to tell you with the apostle Paul….”Welcome to the club “
The church is filled with people who cannot do enough good, and fail at obey God’s law over our lives.
This is not a place where people run from God it’s a place where people are running to Him.
Now! This doesn’t mean we throw our hand in the air and give up. This doesn’t mean we can just continue to sin and ignore the Holy Spirit leading in our lives for correction in righteousness. This doesn’t mean we don’t pursue and strive for holiness. What this means is….We recognize that though we love God, there is something else that is trying to keep us from that love though our inabilities and downfalls. Why? We are at war within ourselves. Though after salvation sin doesn’t rule us any longer, but it manages to survive. Though it doesn’t reside in the innermost self but finds it lingering dwelling in the flesh. This will remain until a believer meets the Lord at the Rapture or at death. Remember what Paul said “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.” Gal 5:17
That’s why Paul said this (read v19-v23) For many they doubt they’re good enough or doubt that God could love them enough which in the end lead many people to doubt the eternal assurance that God offers fallible and broken sinners like you and me. Because we mess up and we cannot keep the Law that God has written on our hearts. We begin to question, Am I saved at all? Again Paul in this chapter helps us to answer that question that those who are God’s children will be keenly aware of our own inabilities and struggles of the flesh. Charles Spurgeon said something that should comfort our doubt about God’s grace. “It is some comfort when we feel a war within the soul to remember that it is an interesting phase of Christian experience. Such as are dead in sin have never made proof of any of these things. These inward conflicts show that we are alive. There is some life in the soul that hates sin, even though it cannot do as it would. Do not be depressed about it. Where there is pain there is life” To know you feel as Paul feels is a sign of God’s sanctification in your life, which then lead to find that you are secure in His arms. See there is a difference between eternal security and eternal assurance.
Security is that you know its Christ alone through repentance and faith in His gospel.
You know He did this through His death and resurrection.
You know that He is only way to be secure with an eternal home.
You know that your secure though His death and resurrection.
You know you’re saved and that He keeps you.
Assurance is day by day of growing as you love and serve our Lord with all your heart mind and strength because of that salvation so freely given. Assurance is a confidence in my salvation. Assurance is made evident by who you love and desire to serve on a daily basis. Assurance reaffirms our eternal position in Christ. And our eternal position gives persevering evidence to our assurance in the gospel of our salvation.
How do I know that’s true in my life? Let me ask you!
Do you desire to please Him?
Do you desire to walk in holiness?
Do you desire to honor and obey His word
Do you desire to know Him?
Do you desire that He would know you and love you
Do you desire to love Him?
We would all say yes to the questions but our response would be “I can’t do this on my own” Exactly! That is what Paul is reminding us this morning. It’s all of grace, that’s what it’s been from all along. Our greatest assurance is when we love Him, serving Him and worship Him. This is our greatest joy and evidence of our assurance in God. Why? Because the natural man or women don’t have those desire that you and I have here in this chapter of Romans. Paul knew it, and so do you and I know all too well the battle we face with our own flesh.
Let me illustrate what Paul is saying!
It is said in ancient world that when some murdered someone, the body of the victim would be tied or strapped around their waist and they would have to carry that body for the remainder of their days.
And it is said over time as the body would begin to decay it would attack the flesh of the one carrying the corpse and that person would eventually die as well.
This is perfect illustration of our natural flesh that is trying to bring our minds into captivity.
Our dead sinful nature is trying to kill us and the only thing that keeps that from happening is the work of Spirit in your life.
Paul had such torture of mind when he expressed his longing to be free from the body of death.
This cry of Paul comforts us as we cry out this same longing. Though we are nowhere where we should be, we know that we are completely dependent on Christ. I know what I want to be and I know where I want to be, but I still struggle with this war of my flesh. But! This also reminds us of what we are not anymore, lost, blind and depraved children. We are born again and we are declared His, despite that our natural flesh wants to wage war on our minds. One thing we always need to remind ourselves as we take the pilgrims road. We are never to evaluate the Christian life by our failures and short comings.
Why? We know our weaknesses and temptation, we know we fall into patterns of sin or possibly been taught wrongly about His grace. We know that if we endeavor to live a holy life apart from the power of the indwelling Spirit, and independently of the grace of the gospel that has been given. All such efforts are sure to end in wretchedness. We can no more sanctify ourselves than we can justify ourselves. Deliverance from the power of sin is the gift of God’s grace, as forgiveness is. As one theologian said “It is only when we have come to the very end of all our strivings and resolving’s, and have abandoned ourselves to the Savior, He should do in us and for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that we are led to cry, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”” The greatest assurance that Paul found was in this statement he makes in the closing verses of this chapter.
The only answer to our problem and times of doubt is found in (v24-v25) Paul is acknowledging his inability to save himself and cry’s out a question! Who has the power to delivery me from this body of death? This body that is naturally bent and crooked because of the Fall of man. Paul is making it very clear that the cause of his frustration and torment is the body of death. “Who can set us or deliver us free?” “Set free” has the basic idea of rescuing from danger, as a solider would go out on the battlefield to save his wounded comrades. Paul’s cry and it should be ours is that we long for the day when we would be rescued from the last remnant of our old, sinful, unredeemed flesh Answer? (v25) “I Thank God, through Jesus Christ!” All our praise goes to Jesus Christ, though we still live in these sinful shells we are safe and secure in the Sovereign arms of God through Jesus Christ. We are no longer the wretched people we once were and this is all because of the gospel. Though we will battle until that day He calls us home, we can rest assured that…..“…I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6. Because? “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Rom 8:18. Though our enemies are many, we have one, who is trying to take our minds captive and off the promises of God.
When a person doubts their salvation and thinks that God is displeased every time you mess up. Take them here to Paul’s confession and frustration as a child of God. The reason why this person questions about their relationship with God should be evidence to their conversion and sanctifying work of God in their lives. Why? The world isn’t concerned about their flesh, because they are only concerned about their flesh and its desires. BUT! For those of us who are concerned because we love God and fail at times, this is evidence to a work that is being done in you. But remember! Though the Christian can say that a new man has already arisen in them. The Christian must also confess that the sinful part of the old man has not yet ceased to be. Praise is to Jesus Christ and His unfailing love and mercy to me, one a wretched man but now a child of God.
So stay the course and never doubt His unfailing love because you are not perfect and incapable of being perfect. Even though you try.
Because! In this life, the Christian life is somewhat like an unskilled artist who beholds a beautiful scene that he or she wants to paint. But your lack of talent prevents you from doing the scene justice.
The fault is not!
In the scene
Our in the canvas
The brushes or the paint
It’s in the painter! That is why we need to ask the Master Painter, Jesus Christ, to place His hand over ours in order to paint the strokes because we can’t do it on our own. This chapter reminds us of that! And Jesus said this before Paul penned this letter! “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. The only way to have victory over this enemy is to”…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gal 5:16