I’m lying in bed, and I can hear our youngest son softly crying in the other room. It’s the middle of the night and I’ve been woken from deep sleep and I’m hoping. I’m hoping that my wife, who is asleep beside me, will get up and deal with him, but she doesn’t move. Then, as I lie there hoping, she moves in the bed and her foot kicks me. I’m sure she’s decided that it’s my job to deal with him.
So I get out of bed to try and calm our son. However I’m livid. How dare she kick me to get me out of bed! Doesn’t she know that I’ve come to bed late and that I need my sleep! I’m seething.
I get our son up, only for the second youngest to wake up as well—he wants milk. I bark at him, angry at the inconvenience they are giving me. ‘I’ve got enough to do sorting out one child without you adding to my work at 2am in the morning!’ He bursts into tears at my angry response as I take the youngest downstairs to dose him up with Calpol and yes, get some milk for my other son as well.
Now, with both eventually quiet, I get back into bed. I’m still angryand very annoyed that I’d had to sort them out.
In the morning, I discover two things: thatmy wifenever heard either of them. And that the kick was completely unintentional and unconnected to what was going on!
Are you familiar with that sort of thing?
Have you experienced evil grabbing hold of you? That as you go to do a good thing (like I was in dealing with an upset child), sin is right there with you, gripping you in its power?
Where did that beast come from? How could I feel so angry with the wife I love? How could I be angry at my son when all he wanted was some milk? Has anything ever happened to you like that?
I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone in this sort of experience
Paul, writing in the book of Romans,understood my madness as well; and he goes on to describe it. He doesn’t just understand my madness, he understands yours as well! I’m just going to introduce what he says, and leave you with a question:
Paul, a Christian,had a daily, ongoing battle with sin. This is clear by his frequent use of the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’. It’s all in the present tense. Paul reveals something to us that is true of every Christian: that person knows three is a persistent, daily battle between doing what is right and doing wrong. Actually, what is interesting, is that once we become aware of it, we all discover thisbattle.A battle that won’t go away, that’s powerful, and sometimes grips us. Hear Paul describe this for the Christian:
Galatians 5:17, “. . . the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want”.
Notice how Paul speaks about himself—”I know that nothing good lives in me”—wow! That is a devastating thing to say about yourself. I can’t imagine Paul, or a Christian like him, wearing fancy clothes, with an expensive hair cut, with the smell of aftershave about him—giving that sort of ultra-celebrity type smile that says “I’m great, I’m sorted, don’t you think I’m great since I look so good!” I don’t think he’d be like that on the outside because he knows what he is like on the inside! He’s not good. He’s not great. He’s listened to God—he’s seen what motivates him in life (he calls that his heart). He’s also seen that he does not love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength, and he loves at times doing wrong. He’s become realistic, and humble!
How do you speak about yourself?
What do you think about yourself? What is the image you put across? Is it a cover, a sham? Are you hiding the reality? Have you come to terms yet with what you are reallylike as seen by God and have you realised, that though you don’t give thanks to God as you should or give him your life as you ought, He loves you more than you can ever fully appreciate?
How do you speak about yourself? Wilberforce who was a great Christian guy who worked tirelessly for the benefit of slaves and worked in many other areas of life saidthis: · “. . . every hour I see fresh reason to see how bad I am . . . my weakness of purpose . . . my selfish, unworthy desires, my slowness to set about what I ought to do, my lack of energy and coldness in getting the work done . . . I have to continually confess that I feel within me two opposite powers at work so that ‘I cannot do the things that I would’” [Romans 7:19].
Here is something else he said: “ . . . new life in Christ must grow and bear fruit in a spiritual and moral climate of this world that is highly inhospitable to the fruit of holiness. It’s like trying to grow a peach tree in Minnesota. Or, as I put it—trying to grow cabbages in a garden full of rabbits!”
Is this your experience of life?
The sort of experience that causes Paul to say, “I do not understand what I do” (7:15).
Have you ever come to the end of a day, or a week and had these disturbed sorts of questions in your head. ‘How could I have done that?’ Or, ‘What was I thinking about?’ Don’t we all experience that frustrated feeling that there is a way of life you want to live but you don’t keep to it?
Now why is that? What is the reason for such difficulties and struggles and frustrations! Man—you want to be free of sinning but it just doesn’t seem to happen—do you know what I mean? Well Paul answers those questions in Romans 7. The reason for this frustration, this persistent sinning is described as “sin living in me”, and again as “it is sin living in me that does it.” Then as he begins to draw things together—Paul says that he sees another law at work in his body. That word law is not about a copper or a policeman, no! It’s like a power or principle.
You throw a tennis ball up into the air and you’ll see a law at work. It’ll come down according to the law of gravity. That ‘law’, principle, reveals how things work. We can’t escape the law of gravity. It has a grip on us, it stops us lifting weights as many times as we’d like!
The law that causes us to sin is the law of sin, “at work . . . waging war against the law of my mind” (7:23).
The question is, what is the answer to this overpowering force within each one of us?