Robert Jeffress - Victory In The War Within
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation". But if that's really true, why do we fall prey to sin even after we've been saved? Shouldn't temptation have no effect on us? Well, even the apostle Paul faced his struggles with sin. In Romans chapter 7, Paul outlines a helpful strategy for being obedient to God in a world filled with sin. My message is titled, "Victory in the War Within", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
Several weeks ago, I received a telephone call from a production company in Hollywood. It's the company that produces these reality shows like "Extreme Makeover", and "The Preachers of L.A.", and they asked me if I would be open to participating in a new reality show that they're getting ready to do called, "The Preachers of Dallas". They explained to me what they were going to do if I would allow them to, would send their cameras and they would just follow me around 24 hours a day for a week. They would film me at church. They would film me at home. They would capture my public moments. They would capture my private moments and the point would be to allow people across America to see me just as I am. It took me all of 10 seconds to say: thanks, but no thanks. Trust me when I tell you it would not be a benefit to our church, or to the Kingdom of God as a whole for people to see me just the way that I am.
Now, don't misunderstand, it's not that I walk around the office spewing profanities every day: it's not that I go home and get drunk every night: beat Amy and watch pornographic movies. I mean that's, that's not my lifestyle. But I have struggles. I struggle with the same things you struggle with. You know, I struggle with temptation: I struggle, sometimes, with losing my temper. There are times I don't feel like reading my Bible. I mean, I go through the same things you go through, and I just don't think it's particularly helpful for the masses to see that struggle.
Which is why I'm absolutely fascinated when I come to Romans chapter 7, because in this chapter the greatest evangelist, the greatest missionary, the greatest theologian the world has ever known, the apostle Paul, allows us to follow him around and see him as he actually is. He's upfront and shows us his struggle with sin every hour of every day. And though he sometimes loses that struggle with sin, he says victory should be the norm rather than the exception to those struggles. And in Romans chapter 7 he explains to us how we can experience victory in that very real war within every believer.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Romans chapter 7 as we discover how to have victory in the war within. And today we're going to finish our discussion of Romans chapter 7 as we talk about how we as Christians can have victory over the battle with sin we face every day. Now, verse 14 is a hinge verse. It transitions the discussion from the rule of law for the non-believer to the role of the law for the Christian. But now Paul is going to talk about a new law. See, there's a great misunderstanding about grace. Remember I said in Romans chapter 6 Paul says "we are no longer", verse 14, "under the law, we are under grace"? What Paul is saying is we're no longer under the Old Testament law. He's not saying we're under no law. He says we're no longer under the Old Testament law, we are under grace.
Now I want you to write these two statements down about grace. First of all, grace does not free us to do what is wrong: it empowers us to do what is right. Grace does not free us to do what is wrong: it empowers us to do what is right. And secondly, second statement, grace does not release us from any law: it places us under a new law. Grace does not release us from any law: it places us under a new law. We are no longer under the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the old agreement. We are under the New Testament, the new agreement. And that new agreement has requirements in it just like the old agreement did. And the reason we keep these New Testament laws is not to earn our salvation, that's impossible, but to please the one who has redeemed us. And in many ways, the New Testament laws are greater than the Old Testament laws. Did you know that?
There's this idea that all the Old Testament law was hard, and the New Testament law's easy. Not at all. The opposite is true. Remember in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus said, "Moses said in the Old Testament, 'you shall not commit adultery'. But I say to you anyone who has lust in his heart for another person is guilty of adultery". Now which standard's harder to keep? The Old Testament standard or Jesus' standard? Jesus said, "Moses said in the Old Testament, 'you shall not murder'. But I say to you, anyone who's angry with his brother is guilty before God". Which is harder to keep, the prohibition against murder or the prohibition against anger?
Now grace does not release us from any law: it places us under a new law. So, when we get to verse 15 of Romans 7, Paul is going to talk about the struggle we have today as Christians not with the Old Testament law - he uses law here to refer to God's requirements for us today. And I want you to notice three things Paul says about this struggle with God's standard that we as Christians face.
First of all, he talks about the reality of the struggle. The reality of the struggle. I want you to listen to verses 15-19 of Romans 7 Paul talks about his own struggle with sin, "I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can't help myself because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sin nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't: and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway".
Anybody can identify with that? Every time I read that I feel like Paul has sneaked a peak at my spiritual journal. Because that's exactly how I feel. I bet it's how you feel sometimes too. We've all been there. Paul has been there. We have a desire to do what is right, but we just can't do it. We find ourselves doing wrong - there is that battle between what we know God wants, and what a part of us still wants to do. I mean we all struggle with sin between what we want to do and what we know we shouldn't do. Why is it? Why do we have that struggle? Well, Paul explains the reason for the struggle beginning in verse 21. Look at it. Paul says, "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good". The reason we struggle with sin is because there is evil that is still within us.
Now some people believe Paul was speaking about his experience before he was saved. They say this is just inconsistent with what he wrote in chapter 6. Paul is talking about his life before he was saved. Oh no, he's not. Look at verse 22, "For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man". Paul says: in my inner man, the real me, I delight in the law of God. I want to perform the law of God. I want to obey God. The Bible says if you are a Christian, you are a new creation. The real you, the inner man wants to please God. The old man does not desire that. The non-Christian doesn't feel that way. But then look at verse 23. He says, "But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind". He is saying the problem with the flesh is that is where sin still resides. It is still in my flesh. That's the hiding out place for sin in us. It's the only part of us that has not yet been redeemed.
Paul makes that distinction in 2 Corinthians 4:16. He says, "Therefore do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day". There's a difference between the outer man, our body, which is aging and decaying and being destroyed by sin: but there is the inner man that is being strengthened. Remember in Romans 7 verse 5 Paul talks about what his life was like before he was a Christian. He said, "For while we were still in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death". If you're not a Christian today, you are living in the flesh. That is you only have one set of desires. That desire to disobey God. But when we become a Christian, chapter 7 verse 14 says we are no longer in the flesh we are of the flesh.
Look at verse 14, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage into sin". Paul said his real self wants to please God, but he is still inhabiting this body that is riddled with sin, and that's the cause of the battle. Look again at verse 23, "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". That is my body.
Now some people say: "well, that's a contradiction of what he said in chapter 6. He said we're no longer prisoners of sin: we've been set free from sin". That's right, we have. We'll see that in just a moment. Paul is saying though, when you sin and disobey God, you are acting as if you are still a prisoner of sin. Make no mistake about it that sin still resides in your body. And those desires of the flesh, those desires are deceptive, they are cunning, and they are destructive. And that old self that is still residing in your body, it can rear its head at the most inappropriate time, and bring death into your life.
Let me tell you how deceptive and cunning that sin nature is. It can take a perfectly platonic, good, healthy relationship and turn it into an immoral one just like that. It can take what was an edifying, helpful conversation with somebody and with just a turn of a few words turn it into a destructive one. It can take your most noble ambitions and turn them into selfish ambitions. And any Christian who denies the presence of those desires still within him is sowing the seeds of his own destruction.
We've talked about the reality of a struggle. What is the remedy for our struggle? Notice what Paul says here. First of all, if you're going to have victory over the struggle, first of all, realize that the struggle is inevitable. This struggle with your old nature is inevitable. There are some Christians today who say if you can learn this secret formula for a victorious Christian life, you can be rid of that struggle with sin. They're trying to eradicate your sin desires by some special spiritual formula like let go and let God. Or I used to hear this growing up: learn the secret of the crucified life. There are other Christians who say: no, there's a one-time experience you need to have: if you'll have this one-time deliverance experience with a Holy Spirit of God, he will take out those sinful desires from you. You need a second baptism with a Holy Spirit, or a third baptism, or a fourth baptism. If you can have this ecstatic, exciting experience you will be forever rid of those old desires.
Let me tell you something, there is no secret formula, there is no one-time or second-time experience with a Holy Spirit: there is no kind of therapy that will ever rid you of sinful desires. The Christian life is a struggle. It always has been: it always will be. And that's what Paul is saying here. Paul talked about his own struggle in verse 24 when he said, "Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from the body of this death"? Know what word "wretched" means? In Greek it's the word that means "calloused". You know if you work with your hands long enough they form callouses on them from working so hard with your hands. Paul said: I am so tired of my struggle with sin it has caused spiritual callouses because I struggle with sin day and night.
But did you know there is something encouraging about that struggle. If you are struggling with sin, understand this: the fact that you're struggling is evidence that you're really a Christian. Non-Christians don't struggle with sin. They only have one set of desires. They don't struggle with this desire. Oh, sure, they may have certain habits in their life that cause problems they would like to get over, but they don't struggle between a desire to please God and the desire to please themselves. They only have one set of desires. If you're a Christian struggling between that desire to please yourself and your desire to please God it's evidence that you are a child of God.
Realize that the struggle is inevitable. Secondly, realize that the struggle is winnable. Some Christians try to use this passage as an excuse for sin. They actually take verse 20 of Romans 7 as an excuse to rationalize their sin. Paul says, "But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me". Did you know there are sects in Christianity, that's S-E-C-T-S, sects in Christianity that actually teach that if you're involved in adultery, you don't need to worry about that - it's not you who is committing adultery, it's that old man inside of you that's committing adultery. That's not you, that's your old sin nature. If you're caught embezzling money from your company, you're not guilty, that's not you, that's the old sin nature inside of you doing it.
Now that's true dualism. No, Paul's not saying that. He's not trying to alleviate us of our responsibility for obedience. What he's saying in verse 20 is: if you sin, that is your old man who is inconsistent with who you are in Christ Jesus: for a Christian to disobey is completely inconsistent with his new position in Christ. Remember Romans chapter 6 verses 11 to 12 and 14. Paul said, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace". Paul says sin has no more power over you than you choose to allow it to have.
Remember the struggle is winnable. Thirdly, not only is the struggle inevitable and winnable: realize that the struggle is also only temporary. Go back to verse 24. He says, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death"? What does he mean by that: who will set me free? Time for a Bible quiz: where was the apostle Paul born? Anybody remember? Saul of Tarsus. Tarsus. Did you know they had a very interesting practice in the city of Tarsus, and how they handled somebody convicted of murder? If a man was convicted of murder, he was sentenced to death by a most unusual manner. The body of the corpse of the slain person would be strapped to the back of the murderer, and he was forced to carry that corpse around with him until the decay of the corpse infected his own body, causing him to die a horrible death himself.
I believe that's what Paul had in mind here when he said: who will set me free from the body of this death. Paul said: in my new man, my inner man, I want to please God, but I'm lugging around this old corpse, this old self who's infecting my desires to please God. When, oh, when God, am I going to be released from the body of this death? That's what Paul longed for. And will you notice in his question he asked who will deliver me? He's looking to the future. He doesn't say: who has already delivered me. He's already said in chapter 6: Jesus has already delivered me from the power of sin because I have the Holy Spirit of God in me: the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is working in my life: I don't have to obey my sin nature. He's not talking about who will deliver me from the power of sin, he's talking about who God will deliver me from that presence of sin. I'm tired of carrying around this old sin nature? And then he answers his own question, verse 25. He says, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ". Paul is looking forward to that day when he will finally be separated from that sinful body.
Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you trust in Jesus as your Savior - listen to this - God delivers you from the penalty of sin. In just a moment when we have our hymn of invitation, when we invite you to trust in Christ as your Savior the moment you trust in Jesus, believing that he died for your sins, and suffered the penalty you deserve to suffer, the moment you say that, God declares you not guilty. You are delivered from the penalty of sin. Not only that, secondly, Jesus Christ delivers you from the power of sin. The moment you trust in Christ as your Savior, sin is no longer your master. You don't have to say "Yes" to it any longer. God has already delivered you from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and one day when he returns, he will deliver you from the presence of sin.
At the rapture of the church when we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, we leave these old bodies behind - what is going to happen? That's going to be the time God separates us from this old body. We leave it behind, and God gives us a brand new, resurrection body just like Jesus had. One that is forever free from the presence of sin. That's what Paul is talking about here, our final deliverance.
Ruth Graham, the late wife of evangelist Billy Graham was one time driving through the mountain roads of North Carolina and she came into a construction zone, and so she saw for miles all of these warning signs: she had to navigate around the machinery and the workmen. And finally when she came to the end of that construction zone after several miles of driving, she saw one final sign. The sign said, "End of construction. Thank you for your patience".
When Ruth Graham died in 2007, she decided that on her gravestone she did not want a long list of accomplishments there: instead she wanted words that would remind people of the struggle of this life, but also the victory of eternal life. If you go to visit Ruth Graham's grave today - you know what you'll find on it? Those words she had seen years earlier, "End of construction. Thank you for your patience". The Christian life is a struggle. It's a real struggle while we're under construction. It's a winnable struggle, but thanks be to God through Christ Jesus that it is a temporary struggle. One day the construction project will be over.