Tag Archives: romans 7

The Spiritual Battle from Three Scriptures

In Sunday school this weekend, we continued to work our way through the third chapter of Ephesians, where Paul prays on behalf of the church there.  Here is this prayer in its entirety:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

As we broke his prayer down into smaller pieces to focus more closely on single words or phrases, one of the phrases that really grabbed my attention was in verse 17, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.

I had spent some time reading through and reflecting on Romans 7 last week, and when I read that, it brought to mind these verses from that chapter:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 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. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:14-20)

Did you catch that?  Verses 17, 18, and 20: “sin that dwells within me… nothing good dwells in me… sin that dwells within me.”

So which is it?  Is it sin that dwells within me or is it Christ?

God immediately brought to mind Jesus words in Matthew 12 when our Savior was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, specifically Matthew 12:29:

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matthew 12:22-29)

I would like to hear your feedback on this.  Please comment.

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Prayer and Sin

I have been reading through Ryle’s Practical Religion this week.  This is another jewel I have discovered in the mines of the GraceGems site.  This is a marvelous work.  I recommend it to all.  Here’s a snippet from the fourth chapter, A Call to Prayer:

Have you forgotten the lives that many live? Can we really believe that
people are praying against sin night and day, when we see them plunging into
it? Can we suppose they pray against the world, when they are entirely
absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God
for grace to serve him, when they do not show the slightest interest to
serve him at all? Oh, no, it is plain as daylight that the great majority of
people either ask nothing of God or do not mean what they say when they do
ask, which is just the same thing. Praying and sinning will never live
together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke
prayer. I cannot forget this. I look at people’s lives. I believe that few
pray.

Have you forgotten the deaths that many die? How many, when they draw near
death, seem entirely strangers to God. Not only are they sadly ignorant of
his gospel, but sadly lacking in the power of speaking to him. There is a
terrible awkwardness and shyness in their endeavors to approach him. They
seem to be taking up a fresh thing. They appear as if they want an
introduction to God, and as if they have never talked with him before. I
remember having heard of person who was anxious to have a minister to visit
them in their last illness. They desired that he would pray for them. He
asked her what he should pray for. They did not know, and could not tell.
They were utterly unable to name any one thing which they wished to ask God
for their soul. All they seemed to want was the form of a minister’s
prayers. I can quite understand this. Death-beds are great revealers of
secrets. I cannot forget what I have seen of sick and dying people. This
also leads me to believe that few people pray.

I cannot see your heart. I do not know your private history in spiritual
things. But from what I see in the Bible and in the world I am certain I
cannot ask you a more necessary question than that before you- DO YOU PRAY?

– J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion

Everything I’ve read in this book so far has been a wonderful, challenging exhortation to the true and substantive life we have been called to as His people.  This little phrase stood out to me in particular:

“Praying and sinning will never live
together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke
prayer. I cannot forget this.”

I know how true this is.  If you are a believer, you know it is, too.  When we cease to pray and commune with Him as we ought, how quickly does the mind stray to that which would slay the heart (if such a thing were possible)?  The more life is ruled by the power of prayer, the more the power of sin is subdued.  And likewise, the less my life is ruled by prayer, the more the power of sin takes ground.  It is as if sin and prayer are the forces which do battle for the old man and the new, spoken of by Paul in Romans 7:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25)

I was watching a video recently by R.C. Sproul from a series he did several years ago entitled “Developing Christian Character”.  He was talking about this struggle the Apostle Paul describes here in Romans, and comparing it with what he says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  Paul clearlysays we get a new nature in Christ, and the old things pass away.  I remember Sproul using the analogy (that I believe he borrowed from someone else) that the “old man” is akin to a chicken that has had its head cut off.  It still runs around spewing blood everywhere, not even realizing that it is dead.  Sproul comments that all Christians are like chickens with their heads cut off.  This is the comparison he draws with our old sin nature.  (And it really is much better to hear him tell it; he’s such a great teacher).  Paul says a bit later in his letter to the Romans:

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12-13)

The Puritan John Owen takes this passage from Romans 8:13 and expounds on it mightily in his book “The Mortification of Sin”, which he sums up nicely on his own, saying, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

Our pastor is meeting with a group of us men right now and asked us a few weeks ago to write a paper on “How a man goes about mortifying the flesh”.  For some, it was the first time they had really thought about how a man really goes about it.  For others, they had some experience to draw on, or had read Owen’s (or some other helpful) work on the subject.  Now there are more than one way to go about killing a cat pet sin.  Meeting regularly with believers; confiding in, confessing to, and exhorting one another; spending time in the Word; memorizing Scripture; reading books like Owen’s (or other helpful authors)… these all have value in the part of killing sin that we are responsible for.  But I think Ryle is absolutely correct, that no matter what other tool in our arsenal we use, if we are not battling sin on our knees and in earnest prayer, we are fighting in our own strength.  Where the power of prayer wanes, the power of sin waxes. 

I think these two exhortations should be read and considered together, and I’m thankful that God has brought them together in my mind.

“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

“Praying and sinning will never live
together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke
prayer. I cannot forget this.”

Amen.  May we never forget this either.

Peace & Blessings,
Simple Mann

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