by Don Krow
Are you living your Christian life in frustration because you can't seem to be the good Christian you want to be? Do you sometimes feel as if you are a slave to your flesh?
Even the Apostle Paul said, For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I (Rom. 7:15). There is a reason that many Christians struggle with living the Christian life. But, if we know the root to the problem and deal with it, we can live a victorious, joyful life.
I have been through many struggles during my life. I've also seen many miracles. I was on a deathbed in 1976 and God raised me up. We saw our stillborn daughter restored to life. About five years ago I came to work for Andrew Wommack and I was totally destitute. I had pastored a church and there had been a split. I was totally burned out and tired of trying to live the Christian life.
Then the Lord began a process of renewing my mind. Through a period of several years God has opened a picture more clearly to me. As a result, I have ceased from my struggles and come to a place of rest. I have learned to let God do what He wanted to do all the time.
A New Creation
The Bible tells us that we are a new creation in Jesus. First Corinthians 6:17 says, But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Romans 8:9 says, Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. The Apostle Paul talked about a revelation - a mystery that has been hidden from ages and generations, but is now made manifest which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:26-27). Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that it's no longer I living, it's now Christ living in me and through me. Romans 6:6 says it this way: 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.
As surely as Jesus Christ went to the cross and died between two thieves, the word of God teaches that you and I, the old self, actually died with Him on that cross. That's a reality in the spirit world. The Bible tells about us being members of Christ... of His body and of His flesh and of His bones (Eph. 5:30). Of course, Second Corinthians 5:17 says, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Now if that is true, and we know it is, why do we still have thoughts of jealousy, envy, strife, lust, and other things that enter our minds? We are new creations in Christ Jesus. Old things are passed away. The old self has been crucified.
Sometimes, when I see someone succeed I become envious instead of rejoicing with him. Have you ever felt that way? Sometimes when someone is failing I feel a little better. I don't feel like such a failure myself. Some people may say it's because I'm suffering from rejection as a child, and what I need is deliverance from a spirit of rejection or inferiority. We all know the reality of evil spirits, but as I began to study the scriptures I found a different answer. I found out that my number one problem wasn't the devil.
I don't deny the reality of the devil. Even Jesus was tempted directly by the devil (Mt. 4:1-11). Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world and wicked spirits in heavenly places. We know that evil spirits are out there and we know that they would like to affect the life of the believer.
As I studied the scriptures, I discovered that there is a root problem to the struggles we face as believers. If we are not aware of this problem and how to deal with it, it results in what the Bible calls strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Then, as a result of those strongholds, there is demonic activity that begins to operate in the life of the believer (Eph. 4:27).
Many of you may disagree with me at first, but the root of our problem is one word - sin. The reason you may disagree is because we have only a partial understanding of this subject. When you hear the word sin most of you think of something you did. You think of an action, like the time you got angry or gossiped; but I'm not talking about sin in that context.
I've discovered that in Romans 5-8, the word sin is used 41 times. Forty of the times, the word sin is used as a noun. Only once is the word sin used as a verb, indicating an action or something you do. As a noun, the scripture is talking about a principle.
To understand this better, let's look at Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. This is what Vine says about the word sin as a noun. The Greek word is hamartia and literally, that word means a missing of the mark. Sin is coming short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Literally, sin means to miss the mark. So, sin can refer to an action. But Vine also says that the earliest known use is largely lost in the New Testament. He says that sin is a principle. It's a source of action. It's not the act itself, but it's an inward element that produces the act. Then he says that sin is a governing principle or power. Sin is an organized power that acts through the members of the body. The body is the instrument.
Vine also says that sin, the governing power that tries to operate through our body, is personified. He lists 16 scriptures in which sin is personified. To personify something is to give it personality. In the Old Testament, wisdom was personified. Wisdom wasn't a person, but wisdom cried from the streets (Prov. 1:20). I believe that the Apostle Paul personified the word sin in Romans, chapters 5-8. I'm not saying that sin seems to almost have a personality. It seems to have a tactic. It schemes against you. It tries to deceive you. It wants to beat you.
In Romans 7:22, we can qualify what Vine says. The Apostle Paul says, For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. If you're a born-again believer, in the innermost part of your being you always desire and delight to do the will of God. That is our new nature which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). We also have an old nature which is described in Ephesians 2:1-2 as a spirit of disobedience. It is this old spirit that was dead in trespasses and sins. This spirit is who we were outside of Christ and in Adam. This old spirit was crucified with Christ and there was a new creation. Old things passed away and everything became new in our spirits. There may be times you fail. You may have all kinds of feelings, but inside you delight to do the will of God.
Then, what is the problem? Paul describes the problem in the next verse. Romans 7:23 says, But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity [or slavery] to the law of sin which is in my members. Paul knows the principle of the new creation, but there's another principle that he is facing which he calls a law of sin. I heard one person call it a law of defeat. Paul says this law wars against the mind. You're either going to win or lose in the mind.
According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the word warring means to attack. There is a principle attacking your mind. It schemes against you, trying to deceive you and defeat you. It's warring against your mind, trying to bring you into captivity to what Paul calls the law of sin. For all practical purposes, I call this law the flesh. I believe they are so closely related that they can hardly be separated. I'm referring to sin as the law of sin, the flesh, and self sufficiency.
Self sufficiency is operating independently of the Spirit. Self sufficiency is what happened at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We tried to be God and do things in our own strength and ability.
You have all the resources you need in Christ, but you can still operate just like an unbeliever. It shouldn't surprise you to see television evangelists or anyone else operate in the flesh. We are all capable of anything if we operate independently of this new creation that we are in Christ and begin to operate in the realm of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).
Exactly how does this sin principle war against the mind? I've discovered in my life that it works something like this: I'm at work and I'm having a bad day. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong. Then I get a thought in my mind that says, Why don't you go over there and give Tom a piece of your mind because Tom is the problem around here. If it wasn't for Tom, you wouldn't be having all these problems.
If I heard a thought like that I'd say, I rebuke you devil, in Jesus name. Get out of here! That's pretty obvious that someone is telling me to go over there and give Tom a piece of my mind. However, I very seldom have thoughts like that. The thoughts come and say, I ought to give Tom a piece of my mind. It is first person singular pronoun... identifying with me.
If I go over there and give Tom a piece of my mind, I'm operating in that principle of sin. Not everything that comes into my mind is me. Second Corinthians 10:4-5 says, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
If I had a bad thought and wasn't enlightened about this topic, I would condemn myself. I would say, If I was really a good Christian I wouldn't have had a thought like that. Good Christians don't have thoughts about giving someone a piece of their mind.
It was actually the principle of sin that came via my flesh. The devil or a demonic spirit could be attached to it, too. Sometimes I don't know the difference, but that doesn't matter. The answer is still the same - I have to bring those thoughts into obedience to Christ. We re all going to win or lose in the arena of the mind.
The Law of Sin
Do you know how Paul discovered that sin was a law? He tried to do good and he failed. He tried to do good again and he failed. So he tried to be holy again and he failed. He tried to keep the commandments and he failed. Then he decided that this must be a law of sin that works in his members - a law of defeat coming against him.
What is meant by a law? If I were to shoot someone, the police would come and arrest me and take me to jail. They would do that in England, too, and in Russia, or practically anywhere in the world. It's a universal law that if you kill someone you will be arrested and stand trial. A law is consistent. It works the same way all the time. A better example is the law of gravity. The law of gravity applies everywhere. It works the same way all the time and has its own natural power.
Have you lived your Christian life trying to beat a law of sin that seems to have its own power to hold you down? You may say, I'm not going to be defeated. I'm going to get really committed. Then the next Sunday night you have to get recommitted. So every Sunday night you get rededicated. You may think you're not exercising your will enough. Can you live your Christian life that way?
Can you say no to sin and defeat it? You can, but it's like defeating the law of gravity. I can hold an object in my hand and keep it from falling to the floor. For a time, I am defeating the law of gravity. Eventually, my hand and arm will become so tired that I can't hold it any longer. I will drop it because there is a natural power in the law of gravity pulling on my hand.
Many of us have lived our Christian life that way. We may think we'll just exercise more will power against sin. In Romans 7:18 Paul says, 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.
There is only one way to beat a law of sin that has a natural force. That way is to put a higher law into operation. The Bible never talks about overcoming sin. The Bible teaches about being freed and delivered from sin (Rom. 6:7, 22) through a power that Paul calls another law. The answer is in Romans 8:2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath [past tense] made me free from the law of sin and death. He didn't say it works sometimes - it's already done.
Before the Apostle Paul came to this point, he came to a conclusion in Romans 7:24 when he said, Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? If you look up the word wretched in the Greek, it means miserable. Paul says, I am miserable as a believer. Have you ever felt so miserable as a believer that you didn't want to evangelize because you were so miserable? You didn't want to give anyone else the miserable quality of life you were living as a Christian.
In what context is Paul talking about being miserable? He is totally committed. He delights in the law of God. He wants to please God. Verse 15 of Romans, chapter 7, tells us why he is miserable. He says, For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. The good things he wants to do, he doesn't do, and the things he doesn't want to do, he does.
Notice also what verse 21 says: I find then a law [or principle] that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. He didn't say, When I want to do evil, evil is lurking with me. He said, When I want to do good, evil is present with me to defeat me. He is a wretched, miserable believer. This is not the abundant life that Jesus promised. Jesus said, I come that [you] might have life, and that [you] might have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10).
The key to understanding Romans 7 is the personal pronoun I. The pronoun I is used over and over: I want to do good. I want to keep the commandments. I want to love God. However, the Spirit of God is not in that chapter. Paul is a believer, loving God and committed with all his heart, but he s operating on his own steam and burning out.
The Bible says two seemingly different things about believers. It tells me that I'm an old wretched man and can't do anything. Then it says that I can do all things through Christ. In John 15 Jesus said, I can do all things. There is a balance between these two scriptures. Before you can do all things, you have to get down to Oh wretched man that I am and see that without Him I can do nothing.
USDA Choice Flesh
You may think that you have abilities. Maybe you can sing well or preach well. Having a good ability is a problem, because it's walking in the flesh, if used independently of God. Bill Gillham says in his book, Lifetime Guarantee, that you either have yucky flesh or USDA choice flesh. Chances are, if you are a pastor, you have USDA choice flesh. Most of the church members have yucky flesh. Yucky flesh say, Woe is me. I can't do anything. I'll never succeed. The problem with that is that it's a lie. The new creation is expressing itself through the soul and through the body. Romans 8:11 describes the spirit that dwells in us as quickening the mortal body. It's bringing the very life and expression of Jesus to this earth.
I don't know where we get the idea that if you are a good Christian, bad things don't happen to you. Paul said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. If we read the context, we find that Paul was saying, in essence, I know what it is to be abased. I know what it is to abound. I know what it is to be hungry and I know what it is to be full. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:12-13). He's saying that circumstances of life have nothing to do with one s victory.
In the parables of Jesus, we read that the wind will come and the rains will descend, and it will beat upon the house whether it's on the sand or the rock (Mt. 7:24-27). The difference is that if we re on the rock, we understand who we are in Christ. If we understand the resource that we have and the revelation of what happened to us on the inside, we can face any circumstances. Paul is saying that he is not living his life according to circumstance. He is saying, I can do all things through Christ which infuses strength into me. But, before you get to that point you have to know how weak you are.
It's common for believers to start out depending on Christ, and end up depending on their own ability. It goes something like this: when you come to Jesus you throw yourself on the grace of God. You know you are a sinner and you throw yourself upon the cross and the blood that Jesus shed (Rom. 5-9). Then you get into the church world. The other Christians tell you, If you really want to be a good Christian, then you have to pray an hour a day. You have to read your Bible and do all these other things. These things are good, but people misunderstand them.
Many people think that after ten years of religious instruction and establishing all these laws and avoiding the don'ts and doing the dos that they have arrived. Then suddenly they do something so devastating that they can't even believe it themselves. They may come for help and say, I've been in the ministry so many years and I can't even believe what I've done. I should have been stronger than that.
True Christianity is not you becoming stronger. It's you becoming so weak that you never depend on your own resources (2 Cor. 12:9). You don't depend on your own ability anymore. The good thing about you and me is Christ. Even Paul said that our flesh dwells no good thing. We have to live the Christian life the same way Jesus Christ lived the Christian life. He came to the earth and humbled Himself. He came here from heaven and stripped Himself (Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus said, I live totally dependent on the Father. What I see Him do, I do. What I hear Him speak is what I speak. Without Him I can do nothing (Jn. 5:19, 30; 8:28, 38; 12:49-50; 14:10). Then, Jesus said, You have to live the Christian life that same way - in dependence upon Me (Jn. 15:4-5; Gal. 2:20).
You are saved by grace and you're going to have to live by grace (Col. 2:6). Romans 6:14 says that sin shall not have dominion over you for you are not under the law, but under grace. Under the law you had to rely on your own ability to achieve. But, under grace Jesus says that it's His strength, His ability, made perfect in your weakness.
You can have yucky flesh or you can have USDA choice flesh. USDA choice flesh says, I can handle it. I can think up how to get this ministry going. I can think up how to build my church. You may be good looking, or wealthy, or successful, but God says you have to come to the end of all that (Phil. 3:6-7).
Romans 8:5 holds part of the answer. 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. The next verse says, For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Andrew Wommack wrote a footnote in his Life for Today commentary that states, Being carnally minded doesn't just tend towards death, it is death (note 15 at Rom. 8:6). The Amplified Bible defines death as all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter. Are you depressed, beaten down, defeated? What are you thinking about?
The flesh will always oppose the Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says the flesh wars against the Spirit. I have to take the Word of God and focus on the God behind the Word to draw His strength. I'm not rejected. God's Word says that I'm loved. I'm not beaten down. I'm above and not beneath.
Your mind has to cooperate with the Spirit. If your mind is not cooperating with the Spirit of God's Word, you're going to walk after the flesh. If you agree with God and set your mind on things above and not on things of this earth, there will be life and peace (Col. 3:1-3; Rom. 8:5).
Many people ask, How do you let Christ live through you? They want to know a formula. After Paul said, Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? In the next verse he said, I thank God (Rom. 7:24-25). It takes Christ to live the Christian life. My dog and cat can live the Christian life as well as I can. The only difference is that I can tap into the resource of Christ.
People have wonderful experiences in prayer, but we ve made a religion out of it. Just pray so long each day and you ll have a wonderful experience with God. They ve missed the point. The point isn't the prayer. All our answers are only in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:10). Prayer is not the answer. Prayer is what I use to focus my attention upon Jesus, and that's when I draw His strength.
Some people say the answer is praise and worship. It's not the praise and worship. It's Christ. Praise and worship are ways to direct my attention to Christ, and then I am energized (Ps. 22:3; Ps. 8:2; Mt. 21:16). Some may say the answer is in confessing the Word, but it's focusing on the God behind those words (2 Cor. 3:15-17).
Whatever you have to do to focus your attention on Christ, do it. Just don't ever forget where your strength is. Your trust and dependence must be in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20).