“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7:18-19
With painful precision, Paul’s words capture how I feel every single day. If I had a “life verse,” this would be it.
I’ve been a Christian for a long time. My dead heart was made alive over two decades ago and I’ve experienced transformation that can only be attributed to the faithful work of the Savior.
Yet the truth of this verse resounds in my heart. I want God—I want to love and obey Him. I want to treat others as graciously as He has treated me. I want to share the Gospel boldly, serve my church faithfully, give to the poor generously, and care for the hurting compassionately. I want to be a faithful wife, mother, and friend. I want to kill my pride, my anger, my self-righteousness, my discontent, my anxiety, my selfishness. I want to bear the fruit of the Spirit. These aren’t disingenuous sentiments about what I “should” want… I truly desire these things! Nevertheless, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
This sinful heart of mine still beats strong. Though Christ freed me from sin’s tyrannical shackles, I often feel trapped by them. Though God promises me the grace I need to overcome temptation, I often fail to seize it.
And it can all be very discouraging. If you’re in the place that I so often find myself—truly desiring godliness, but often acting in sinfulness—here are 3 things to remember:
Our Sin Spotlights the Abundance of Jesus’ Grace
Jesus saved us knowing we’d continually return to sin, which testifies all the more to His incomprehensible grace. He hasn’t just wiped our slate clean to give us a second chance. Because a second chance wouldn’t be enough—nor a third, or tenth, or ten-thousandth. We’d never keep a new slate clean.
Jesus actually took our sin, endured our punishment, and covered us in His righteousness. So even if we succumb to the temptation we swore we never would, even if we feel trapped in patterns of sin, even if we feel incapable of living the way we know we should—the way we want to—Christ did it for us.
Sin might infiltrate our hearts and actions every day, but our failures point us to the One who is faithful through it all. His grace is infinitely deeper than our sins will ever be.
God Empowers us to change, Degree by Degree
The God of our salvation is also the God of our transformation. Though there are sins we still battle, there are also temptations He’s helped us overcome. This is why—especially when struggling with repetitive failure—it’s helpful to look back. We might feel like slaves to our sin, but we aren’t, and looking back reminds us of God’s faithfulness to work in us.
As I young teenager—one who loved Jesus and desired to follow Him—I was consumed with body image. This led to two years of intermittent struggles with anorexia and bulimia. Even when I overcame the eating disorders it still felt like I’d always be enslaved to idolizing my appearance. But I don’t anymore. And while some might assume I “grew out of it,” I know sin is too pervasive for that to be true. Jesus grew me, one degree at a time.
Satan is the great accuser and would love nothing more than to crush us with guilt over our continued failures. But God has saved us to freedom. This freedom doesn’t make us unconcerned with sin, but it enables us to run freely into the arms of our Father knowing that He’s already forgiven us and will graciously sanctify us.
The Struggle Won’t Last Forever
Besides meeting Jesus face-to-face, do you want to know what I’m most looking forward to in heaven? No more sin.
NO. MORE. SIN.
Can you even imagine? What will it be like to worship God, undistracted by the worries that often fight for our attention? What will it be like to be in community, unhindered by conflict? What will it be like to never yell in anger again? What will it be like to never lust again? What will it be like to love people the way God’s created us to? What will it be like to be completely purified from sin and free from temptation? It’s hard to fathom a single day like this, let alone an eternity.
Looking forward to heaven strengthens us for the battle now. Do we get weary in this fight against sin? Yes. But is that fight coming to an end? YES. And because we know its defeat is certain, we can embrace the bloody battlefield that exists in our hearts without fear—God has already won the war.