How Romans 7 Describes Paul's Christian Experience

Paul wanted his heart to be pure toward the Lord 100% of the time. This was Paul's deepest desire. But then imagine Paul indulging 5 seconds of sinful desire when seeing a beautiful woman, or when being persecuted by unbelievers. What would Paul have said about such desires and his subsequent 5 second mental detour?

Here is exactly how Paul viewed such an experience. "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." (Romans 7:19,20)

Was Paul culpable for his 5-second and 10-second detours? Of course. But that was not the "real Paul," and that was not who Paul wanted to be. It was sin within Paul's basement room that produced the desire to spend precious time entertaining a wicked thought.

What if the thought turned into something more? Just imagine what Paul would have said if he ever lost his temper and got short with someone. Here again, Paul would have said it came from "sin living in me."

Paul wasn't trying to deflect his own guilt. On the contrary, Paul was simply recognizing the pathology of his 10-second detours. Those detours did not define Paul, and they did not accurately express the person Paul wanted to be every hour of the day.

Can you relate to that experience my friend? If you are a Christian, and if you are honest about it, you will see yourself in the description Paul presented in Romans 7:14-25.

Paul spent his days "in the living room" of his soul doing the Lord's will. And yet he still experienced the temptation of sinful desires coming from his basement room.

"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me." (Romans 7:21)

How could an apostle of our Lord experience "evil right there" with him? Simply because his basement room, while off limits, was still a clear and present danger in Paul's life.

Thankfully, Paul deeply wanted to obey God.

"For in my inner being I delight in God's law." (Romans 7:22)

That was the "real Paul." An unbeliever does not make such a statement. Apart from Christ, no one loves God's law. After all, the law only condemns us until we bring our sin under the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross. Then and only then can we truly "delight in God's law" as we find pleasure in doing His will.

Christians don't strive to be saved through obedience to the law. Instead, we know that our salvation has come only through Christ alone. We "have been saved by grace through faith." (Eph. 2:8)

The "real you" is who you want to be. You are not defined by any desires that originate in your sinful nature, but rather, by who you want to be as a Christian. The "real you" wants to live for Jesus. Those who don't want to live for Jesus are obviously not Christians. They have a basement room just like all of us, but they do not enjoy the fellowship of the Lord in the living room of their soul. And they do not enjoy the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul, like all believers, was engaged daily in a spiritual battle against temptation.

"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." (Romans 7:23)

Paul knew that as a Christian, he was free to say "no" to ungodly desires, but that temptation would be a daily part of his Christian experience. And Paul understood the source of his temptations. These enticements come from "the world," "the devil," and from our "sinful nature."

No wonder Paul wrote, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)

Paul's physical body was in a state of decay, and Paul's basement room was completely corrupt and devoid of holy desires. Meanwhile, there were righteous desires filling Paul's living room; his heart, his mind, and his motives. Paul had a pure heart, but an impure sinful nature. Paul's body was "a temple of the Holy Spirit," (1 Cor. 6:19) and God was producing holy desires within Paul's soul.

Paul clearly understood the spiritual dynamics he was experiencing as a Christian. And the book of Romans describes what all believers experience on a daily basis.

Paul summed up his internal conflict this way: "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 7:25)

Paul was not "double-minded" (James 1:8). Instead, Paul was single-minded, and he was completely committed to following Christ. But Paul still had two natures. There was his "new self" (Eph. 4:24) since Paul was a "new creation" in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17) And then there was his sinful nature, which continued to exist within his soul. It had been put to death by being "crucified with Christ," (Romans 6:6) but it was still fighting for life and capable of injecting wicked desires into the living room of Paul's soul.

Believers want to live for Jesus, and yet, believers still face temptation. The grace of God forgives our sins, and the grace of God also "teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:12)

Paul's "inner being" was alive in Christ. This is why Paul delighted in God's law in his inner being. That is, he delighted in doing God's will. No unbeliever delights in God's law. Instead, natural man resents God's law because it tells me what I must do in order to obey God. No one likes to be told what to do, unless of course you have "been set from sin" and become a "slave to righteousness." Then you love God's law because you know you are no longer "under the law." You are forgiven. You are saved. And you desire to serve the One who died on the cross to take the punishment we deserve to pay.

Don't be surprised if you experience at least 60 seconds of temptation today. Believe it or not, some Christians actually experience hours of temptation in a given day. Perhaps you can relate to that experience. After all, you are still in your mortal body. You still possess a basement room within your soul. And you won't be able to get rid of it until you enter heaven. But you can certainly learn to say "no" to anything that does not please God. And that's exactly how the apostle Paul was seeking to live his life.

Just because Christians have a new nature does not mean that our sinful nature has left the building. If you want peace in your life as a Christian, just stay upstairs. Don't entertain the thoughts and desires of the sinful nature. This is the only way we will experience the new life God intends for us as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I hope you are experiencing God's joy today my friend as you spend time with Jesus in the living room of your soul. After all, there is no better place to be than right next to the One who gave up His life on the cross for our eternal salvation.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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