”Oh Wretched Man That I Am”
Vol: 65 Issue: 17 Saturday, February 17, 2007
According to the Bible, when God created Adam, He created him in His own Image, and in His own Likeness, and ‘man became a living soul’, declares Genesis 2:7.
Already, something seems a bit off-center here — mankind was created in God’s Image, but God cannot sin. Mankind can’t do anything else BUT sin. The ‘soul’ of man consists of the mind, the will, the emotions . . . and the sin nature.
That part of mankind that is in God’s Image is man’s eternal spirit which, thanks to man’s sin nature, is stillborn until it is ‘quickened’ — or, as Jesus phrased it, ‘born again’.
“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [Jesus] was made a quickening Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45)
Humanists believe that good and bad are learned behavior and that man is born morally neutral. That belies the evidence of their eyes. Human babies are anything but morally neutral.
Kids have to be taught to share, since their basic nature is to be selfish. Kids have be taught NOT to fight — it isn’t the other way around. Kids have to be taught NOT to bite each other. They have to be taught NOT to cry every time they want attention. They have to be taught NOT to steal.
Notice the emphasis is on the word ‘NOT’ — babies are born ALREADY KNOWING HOW to be selfish, violent, willful and dishonest. No parent ever taught his kid how to be bad — that comes naturally. They are born with a ‘sin nature’.
But doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that Christians are set free from sin? Most churches I’ve been to excoriate sin and sinners and preach that Christians who continue to live in sin aren’t really Christians at all.
Instead, they are said to have a ‘head knowledge but not a heart knowledge’ of the Lord.
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin,” Paul writes in Romans 6:6-7.
So it would seem that, if we continue to serve sin, we have not been properly crucified with Him, because we aren’t free from sin. So it then follows that maybe we aren’t really saved, but only have a ‘head knowledge’ instead of a ‘heart knowledge’.
Paul seems to underscore that point, writing, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6:12-13)
So you don’t. You try and try to keep sin from reigning in your mortal body. You fight against obeying the lusts thereof. You yield yourself to God as best you can. You dedicate your body and your members to His service.
You weep at the altar because you KNOW what a sinner you are, and you pray and pray and pray for the God-given strength to keep your committment not to sin. You KNOW your heart is in the right place as you cry out in despair to God.
And you continue to sin anyway. And wonder how you failed — or worse, how God failed YOU, because sin seems to continue to reign in your mortal body anyway.
You keep yielding to its lusts, and continue to wonder why it doesn’t seem to work for you, like it does your pastor. (And the lady who plays the organ — you KNOW she’s got the whole sin thing under control)
But YOU don’t. And you’ve been a Christian for years.
Oh, they SAY they still sin, but, c’mon — what kind of secret sins do you think the pastor or the choir lady agonize over? (“Was I too harsh on that telemarketer?”)
It is discouraging, to say the least. Everybody you know is a better Christian than you are. They don’t have the same doubts you do. They clearly put their sin nature before the Lord, and He dealt with it. Just look at them!
How come He didn’t do it for you?
Guess what! He didn’t do it for THEM, either. Any more than He did for the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was miraculously converted on the road to Damascus. He was specifically chosen by Jesus Himself to fill the vacancy created by Judas the Betrayer. He saw the Risen Savior.
And Paul struggled with sin.
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans 7:14-15)
Every time I read this passage, I am struck by how exactly Paul’s experience with sin mirrors my own. In spite of Paul’s first-hand knowledge, having actually met the Lord, seen His power, was himself empowered to work miracles, and was the greatest evangelist in history, Paul struggled with day-to-day sin. Just like you.
How can this be? Paul continues;
“Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (7:17-19)
The enemy hammers at me as he hammers at you — “how can you call yourself a Christian?”
Paul admits that, even though he is saved, sin continues to indwell his mortal body.
“Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (7:20)
“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (7:21-23)
Paul cries out in despair, (as have I, using different words but the same sentiment,) “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24)
The phrase Paul used, “body of this death” was deliberately chosen. In Paul’s day, one form of execution employed by the Romans was to chain the condemned to a corpse and withhold food and water. They would then bet on how long before the condemned would try to survive by feeding on it. To Paul, it was analogous to knowing the law of God, but feeding off the corpse of sin.
Hence the cry; “O wretched man that I am!”
Having poured out his soul, (as you have, and as I have) struggling to understand the dual nature of the Christian life, Paul concludes, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
At this point, you are likely thinking I am preaching a license to sin. I am not. Human beings don’t NEED a license to sin.
Everybody wants to believe it is possible to reach some kind of spiritual state of nirvana where they don’t sin, and can usually point to someone in their minds’ eye that they think has come close to achieving it.
You probably have somebody in mind. (Reality check: I bet it isn’t you. You know yourself too well).
Sinning is what we do. Guilt is what discourages us. Forgiving is what God does.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Paul concludes in Romans 8:1.
Now THAT opens up a whole new can of worms! If you are sinning, are you walking after the flesh? And if you are walking after the flesh, then does that mean there IS condemnation? What about the eternal security issue?
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.”
Which are you? Take a second for another spiritual reality check: Before you were saved, you sinned. Did it bother you? Now that you ARE saved, you STILL sin. Does it bother you now? Then you ARE minding the things of the Spirit, are you not?
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:33-34)
It is the nature of man to sin. It is the nature of God to forgive.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)
Since you are a Christian, there is nothing the enemy can do about YOU — you are forever beyond his reach. Scripture says you are now positionally seated in the heavenly places, as surely as if you were already there.
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:5-6)
Our purpose as Christians is to do God’s will. God’s will is revealed thoughout the Scriptures:
“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ezekiel 18:32)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9)
“And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN SHALL THE END COME.” (Matthew 24:14)
God’s will is that none should perish, and that all should come to repentance and be saved. As front-line soldiers in the King’s service, that is our objective. The enemy wants to convince us that we are unworthy to serve. Be encouraged! It isn’t true.
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My Strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2nd Corinthians 12:8-9a)
Don’t let the enemy steal your victory. It was purchased at too high a Price.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you WILL perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6)