For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find…. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God…. (Romans 7:18,24-25).
Any of us can undo all the good we have done at any moment.
No believer is incapable of messing up and doing so royally.
Even though we are saved and saved forever, nothing about that prevents us from doing something truly stupid and harmful.
It’s that knowledge that keeps the faithful man and woman of God ever alert, constantly watching, forever on their knees.
Each believer struggles with our limitations, our humanity, our fallen nature, with what Scripture calls “the old man.” Scripture says…
–We see through a glass darkly. (I Corinthians 13:12)
–We do not know how to pray as we should. (Romans 8:26)
–It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)
–In my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. (Romans 7:18)
–The things I want to do, I don’t. What I need to avoid, I end up doing. (Romans 7:19).
And many a time the child of God cries out in deep need, “O wretched man (person) that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
John MacArthur says, “A believer perceives his own sinfulness in direct proportion to how clearly he sees the holiness of God and the perfection of His law.”
The closer to the light, the better you see. And what you see of your own heart, increasingly disgusts you as you grow closer to the Lord.
I said to an elderly saint, “You are the godliest person I know.” She answered, “Oh, honey. If you just knew.” I did know. And I know this: The closer we are to Jesus, the more of His unfailing goodness we see and the more unworthy we feel.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter, ever the know-it-all fisherman who needed no advice from a carpenter, protested, “Lord, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” He paused and said, “Nevertheless. At your word, I’ll let down the net.” They hauled in so many fish that their net threatened to break. As they filled both boats–nearly swamping them–Peter fell down before Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:5-8).
Peter was overcome by the goodness and generosity of the Lord. As he saw Jesus’ greatness, he saw his own unworthiness.
“The goodness of God produces repentance” says Romans 2:4. The entire verse reads: Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
You are a child of God, right? You have been born again, you know your sins are gone and you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Good. So, here’s what happens…
In your worship, you are often overcome by the goodness and greatness of such a wonderful Lord. As a result, you constantly humble yourself before Him and feel so unworthy.
Then, when the sinful thing that is your heart rears its ugly head and yearns for some forbidden fruit–to have its own way, to take honors deserved by another, to gain wealth you do not need, to romance your neighbor’s wife, to dishonor your body in ways unhealthy and unholy–your spirit cries out, “No!”
You did not stop being a sinner once you came to Christ. The old man, the old nature, is still present.
An unsaved person may or may not grieve when his/her heart lusts after all those things (honors not deserved, riches not needed, etc), but a born-again child of God will always grieve when the heart starts singing that tune.
Always. It’s one of the marks of a believer.
Speaking to my congregation once, Pastor Adrian Rogers said, “An unbeliever leaps into sin and loves it. A Christian lapses into sin and loathes it.”
John MacArthur says, “Tradition says an ancient tribe near Tarsus tied the corpse of a murder victim to its murderer, allowing its spreading decay to slowly infect and execute the murderer.” In a sense we are all stuck with our old selves.
Now imagine carrying around a corpse on your back which you continue to feed. Yuck. This is why Scripture says to “reckon your old man to be dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). The passage in the NKJV reads: Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The word “reckon” literally means “to count as fact.”
Quit feeding the corpse.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts. (Romans 13:14).
The battle does not ease up as you grow older, but merely changes the nature of the attacks. The temptation is always there and the possibilities for major disaster always present. There is never a time when a child of God can quit abiding in Christ and practicing those daily rituals (prayer, the Word, obedience) he/she learned ages ago to keep oneself close to Him.