Every Christian that is not in heaven still struggles with sin. Many struggle with addictions. Addictions to marijuana, to alcohol, to pornography, to gambling, to overeating, to shopping, and so many other sins. Is there any hope in breaking the chains of addictions? Since many Christians struggle with the sins of addiction they begin to doubt their own salvation. What can a believer do to escape…to overcome their sin?
The Apostle Paul Struggles with Sin
If anyone could overcome sin, surely it was the great apostle Paul. He wrote more books in the New Testament and founded more churches than any other apostle. Even though this great man of faith was a spiritual giant, he struggled with sin too. Don’t let anyone tell you that you will not struggle with overcoming sin in this life after you are saved.
15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” And all of God’s people said, “Amen!” What Christian has not battled with the flesh? We end up doing just what we don’t want to do…but we do it anyway. You are not alone. You are in good company – with Paul.
16 “And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” Paul is saying that I agree with the Law of God…that it is good. The Ten Commandments say we should not bear false witness, but Christians are still not fully sanctified…..it is a lifelong work of sanctification and we are still prone to lie.
17 “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” What Paul is saying is that it’s not really him anymore, but the old man or woman rearing its ugly head. Even though we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), we are still not without sin (1 John 1:8).
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.” It’s like Paul said that he knows better, yet he falls into sin. The only thing is that he doesn’t stay there. He acknowledges it and gets back up. He has the desire to do the right thing but guess what: He still can not carry it out…in his own strength that is. This takes the very power of God: God the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:2).
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.” That is me in a nutshell. A train wreck, a sinner, a wretch but the good news is that Paul realizes that the good he wants to do is what he is not doing…and he keeps on doing it! The good news here is the fact that he understands that it’s wrong. This is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in him, convicting him of his sin. A person who is not born-again has no true desire to do what is right nor are they convicted when they do evil things.
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.” Paul is cutting himself some slack. He understands that he is battling the old nature. The pre-conversion person. The Saul is still in there but Paul is not settling for it now, neither is he allowing to let is slide.
21 “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” This “although I want to do good” is because God has given him His Spirit to show him his sin and even though evil is there with him…he recognizes that he wants “to do good.” That is hopeful because he understands that the law is at work. The Law is a mirror, showing us our sins and he recognizes the evil being there with him (James 1:23). He wants to do good and that is a sentence full of hope, not despair.
22-23 “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” There is a battle for the mind…the battle is ultimately through Jesus Christ but it is a war nonetheless. We might lose battles but the war has truly been won already. The law was made clear to Paul by his conscience (Rom 2:15).
24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Paul finally admits defeat in his own frail, feeble, human strength. He needs rescuing. He is subject to eternal death without a rescuer. What can this wretched man do?! What can we do!?
25 “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Paul falls on his face, being a wretched man and admits defeat (Rom 7:24) and gives thanks to God Almighty, our Mighty Savior, Who delivered him and Who will also deliver us.
Victory in Defeat
You can not overcome sin on your own…you can not conquer your marijuana addiction on your own…you can’t overcome the addiction to pornography by your own strength…you can’t defeat the enemy of alcohol, gambling, overeating, depression…just name it: You just can’t do it…..but God can! He wants to help you overcome the powerful sins of your life and your strong addictions, the mighty fortress where we have no chance at all. God desires to help us and He is more than able and He is absolutely willing to. Imagine the God of the universe. He created the entire universe, all the stars, the galaxies, the sun…everything! He knows the 100 trillion times 100 trillion number of stars all by name. Now is anything really to hard for God?! No! We have no power in ourselves but the Holy Spirit is God and the very power of God working in you. The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge to God that you can not overcome this by your own power. That is exactly what He has been waiting to hear. Victory will only come in defeat. You are in over your head but God is over all things. When we tell God “I just can’t beat this thing God”, He must say, “Finally…now, maybe I can send my power to help them.“ He will be your strong tower.
Pray day and night for the help you need. God can deliver you…He did me! But it took time. Don’t lose heart. You will slip and fall but get back up, pray for forgiveness and ask God to cut off all the sources of your drug addiction, if you are addicted to pornography, get rid of the Internet. Jesus said, speaking in hyperbole, “If your hand offends you, cut it off“(Matt 5:30). What He is saying is to cut off the source of your addiction or sin. If you can’t get rid of the Internet, then have a friend put a password protected filter on it. If you are addicted to drugs, turn in the illegal drug dealers. Drastic yes, but this is what it must take. God can do all things…He created the universe and He can help deliver you and He desires to help you overcome this addiction but you may have to make some painful decisions. We can do nothing on our own…but we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13). The converse of that is that we can do nothing in our own strength.
Victory in Christ
Please don’t lose heart if you are battling an addiction or some deeply entrenched sin. Sometimes these demons are mighty strongholds of the mind. The very fact that you are grieved over your addiction or sin is evidence that the Holy Spirit is not only in you but working in you, for the Spirit convicts us of sin and sanctification is a lifelong process. The very fact that you searched for this over the Internet is evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in you. Can’t you see that!? This is no coincidence. God brought you to this article today for a very specific purpose, a reason, to be a path for your feet – a light for your life. It starts with God and ends with God. I am a pastor today but let me tell you that I was in prison, hooked on drugs, stole, and was headed down the broad path of hell. It took me years and years to finally get over this, yet God never, ever gives up on me and He will not give up on you. Like the Prodigal Father, He kept looking down the road for me to come to Him. He is looking down that road today, waiting, watching, for you.
What I finally did to break the addiction was to pray that all the sources or suppliers of my drugs were removed from me or that they would move…whatever it took. I prayed hard, “Lord, please help me, I am weak.” You know what? It worked. God heard my prayer and answered it. It took me a very long time and today I am clean and sober but I am still a train wreck, a sinner and I will never overcome all sin in this life. Jesus’ blood covers past, present, and future sins of ours….so the very fact that you have a sin or addiction weighing heavy on you should not, I pray, make you lose heart. The fact that you are grieved over your sin is a great sign that the Holy Spirit is trying to show you your sin. Once a believer repents, this does not mean that they will not fall back into sin. No, we will sin again and again…but turning from our sin we will begin to loathe it all the more. Yes, we need to repent, but we sin every day and every day we can begin and end the day by falling on our face, hands, and knees before God to ask for forgiveness. You too can declare as Paul did, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:25)!