My dad was a pastor, so I was pretty familiar with the Bible growing up. Check that. My dad was a Southern Baptist pastor in the 70s and 80s, so I grew up doing sword drills and memorizing Scripture as part of the air I breathed as a kid. But it seems now there was a lot of the Bible we touched on and a lot we skipped over.
Like Romans, for instance. I knew a lot of this book. I knew the “Roman Road to heaven” in high school. But there was a lot in this book I did not discover until college.
Take Romans 7, for example. I can remember the first time I got ahold of Paul’s own wrestling. I can remember the “aha!” moment pretty well, actually. I remember it so well because of how it made me feel less alone in my struggle with sin. Whether it was in my own head or because I heard someone say it, I walked away with the thought, “so this is the Christian life.”
That was a pretty revolutionary moment. Up until then I’d bought into the idea that if I was a real Christian, I would not struggle with sin as Paul describes. I would always be saying no to sin and yes to righteousness. What felt like a cosmic battle between good and evil within my own heart, which often made me feel sick to my stomach, was surely a sign of how carnal I was.
But this was Paul. Paul was the man. And it was clear he struggled too.
That was a beginning a for me. I felt less alone and more free to talk about my struggles instead of pretend to have it all together. It was a slow process, but it was sure. As one who wanted to follow Jesus and be holy, I was glad to know that struggling was a sign of fighting. And fighting was a sign of following Jesus.
I think we assume sin will kind of fade away from us as we grow in the faith. And that is true to a point. As Paul taught in chapter 6, we have been set free from sin (6:18). But there will be seasons when we struggle in big ways. And as we grow older and wiser, we will see our sinfulness and our need for His grace more clearly. So really, what Paul reveals to us is good news: We will struggle. But that means we are fighting. And fighting is a dead giveaway that we are believing the gospel and following Christ.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond