Failure and Grace

By: Dr. James Van Dyke; ©19
Is there a way for us to be victorious over sin? Dr. Van Dyke says “Yes!, but not in our own strength.”

Do you long to be a more disciplined person? Do you wish you could serve God more faithfully and consistently? Yet, do you find, as Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”? (Matt. 26:41)

When I read the words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans (7:14-25), I find my feelings and experiences are not unusual; they are just what Paul experienced in his own life. In the life even of Christians there is a gap between what they wish they were and what they actually are too often.

Romans 7:14-21 confronts us with the hard truth that it is impossible to be totally free of sin in this life, and all of us will fail at some time or other. We WANT to obey God’s law, but sin keeps us from it. Paul teaches that we are all by nature prisoners of sin before we are saved through Christ Jesus, and still are “tainted” by sin even after we are “born anew”.

Thus, we all repeatedly feel a sense of failure and guilt in our relationship to God. We all experience the same frustration Paul expresses in verse 19: “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.”

We don’t want it this way. We know the difference between good and evil, and our consciences won’t let us rest. We know God’s law is right and good, and it is our inner desire to obey it. But just knowing the right does not mean we can do it, despite what humanistic teachers insist. Nor does knowing what the problem is and its cause make it possible to resist.

So, is there no hope? As Paul put it, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?” Is there no way for us to be victorious over sin? YES! But not in our human strength. What we could never do for ourselves, God has done for us in our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (7:25) Dr. Manford Gutzke has put it this way: “It is as if we had been walking in a swamp, and finally come to a rock we could put our feet on.”

The truth is we will never know absolute victory in THIS life. The “war” goes on. With the “mind” we serve the law of God; with the “flesh” we serve the law of sin. And the harder we try, the closer to Jesus we become, the greater the struggle is.

Yet, even though the spiritual warfare within us will go on until He comes again, the outcome has already been decided. JESUS CHRIST IS VICTOR, and you and I who belong to Him by grace, through faith, are included in His victory. He died for us!

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