Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 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.”
Here we see a conflict between desire and performance.
In verses 14-20, Paul wrote about the inward struggle with the law and sin in some pretty vivid terms. He knew that the law was holy and he was quite aware of his own un-holiness. It’s as though Paul was saying: “Fellas, I’m trapped! On the one hand, I know without a doubt that what the law demands is good—I have no doubt! But on the other hand, I admit I don’t do what it says! He knew that in himself—his flesh—he was incapable of turning good desires into good deeds. He was describing the conflict between the two natures and the impossibility of finding deliverance from the power of indwelling sin through his own strength.
So if the law is not to blame for sin, what is? It’s sin…our own sinful nature! The culprit is not the new man in Christ, but the sinful nature that dwells in all people.
But before we go any further, a word of caution must be stated: Paul is not stating that we can just excuse our sinning and pass it off as “that old indwelling sin.” No, we are responsible for what we do; we can’t throw our arms up and say, “Oh well, it’s just the way I am.” Paul is tracking down the source of his sinful acts; he’s not excusing them.
Why is Paul saying this? Because we can’t move forward in holiness until we learn what Paul learned: that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. Sinful nature means our corrupt nature, which is still in every believer. It is the source of every evil action a person performs. When we grasp what Paul is saying, it helps us to keep from looking for any good in the old nature.
The law is neither responsible for our sinning nor capable of saving us. People may have the desire to do what is good, but they lack the empowerment without God. Only the power of the indwelling Spirit can change things.
This can be depressing as we read this passage. It seems hopeless—and if it were up to us, it would be hopeless! It’s hopeless because of our fallen nature, no amount of our trying could achieve what we desperately need. The more we look to the law and attempt to keep it, the clearer our inability to live up to its demands becomes a reality to us.
But thanks be to God, we have a Savior—the Lord Jesus Christ! Because of Him we don’t have to live in the realm of the flesh—our sinful nature. Remember “Your sinful nature does not control you. The Holy Spirit controls you. The Spirit of God lives in you (Romans 8:9).”
*From what you have just read and considered: What is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians; NIV Application Study Bible. The Cambridge Bible Commentary, Romans, Best, Ernest.