I don't understand why I do what I do

In my opinion, Romans 8 the greatest chapter in the whole Bible. Filled with promises about the love of God and His commitment to us, it builds from verse 1’s declaration that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” to the crescendo of verse 35-39, where we are exhorted that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. Hallelujah! But perhaps just as important as Romans 8 is the end of the preceding chapter, Romans 7. After all, Romans 8:1 begins with “therefore,” which should prompt us to ask what it is “there for.” Romans 8, the passionate declaration of God’s great love for sinful, undeserving humans, follows Paul’s most candid confession of his complete inability to live up to not only God’s standards, but even his own. Listen to these words:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:15-25)

To which I say heartily, AMEN, brother Paul! It is so easy for me to make my plans and promises, and to believe wholeheartedly that I have the discipline to live them out. But two weeks… or two days… or even sometimes two hours later, I am quoting Paul as I bang my head against a wall – “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

This is why, as beautiful and inspiring as Romans 8 is, I have found Romans 7 to be just as comforting and encouraging. Even the great Apostle Paul understood my predicament, that it is so hard to have the discipline and moral fortitude to carry out the honorable desires of my heart. Which begs the question: Why is it that we are so encouraged by the failures of others? Why is it that knowing that someone else screws up regularly makes us feel so much better about ourselves? I don’t think it is because we like to see others suffer; rather, it is because we take comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our struggle. And that allows us to breathe easier, to accept God’s forgiveness that He so graciously offers to us, and to get up and try again.

I pray that Romans 7 would encourage you, as it is the backdrop to Paul’s great declaration of the incredible love of God. And I pray that it would also encourage you to share honestly about your flaws and screw-ups as well, so that others might be encouraged that they are not alone in their struggles, join you in praising God for sending His Son to die for our sins, and get back up by the grace of God to walk by the Spirit in obedience to the Father once again.

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