What is a wretched man to do? (Romans 7:24)

Do we as followers of the Lord Jesus lament our sin? And if we do, do we lament it in the way the Bible calls us to lament sin?

These are questions that come to mind as the disciple reads through Romans 7:14-25. In this passage, Paul teaches us that, regardless of spiritual maturity and sanctification, all believers are still indwelt by the “flesh,” that factory of indwelling sin that wages war against the Spirit and that attempts to lure the believer into sin. In this section of Romans, Paul teaches that the flesh persistently tempts and occasionally succeeds. The ongoing resistance to the flesh’s temptations is wearying and seeing ourselves falling into sin is distressing and humiliating. This leads Paul to cry out,

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? – Romans 7:24

This passage is well-known, and I think there are still strong lessons to be learned here.

On one hand, too few Christians dwell in Romans 7:14-25 because too few Christians are aware of the war against personal sin. Too few Christians take seriously the New Testament’s imperatives about the demand for personal holiness, and so they never lament their indwelling sin. As a result, Paul’s teaching in Romans 7 about the danger and persistence of the sins of the flesh receives scant attention and results in no lament. It goes without saying that the person who can read the Bible and not lament their own sin has at best a shallow experience of the gospel’s power. To them, we recommend a daily meditation on Romans 7.

But on the other hand, too many Christians remain trapped in Romans 7:14-25, excessively lamenting their sin instead of repenting of their sin and walking forward in greater holiness.

Do we lament, and there, cease? No! We repent, and thus increase!

There can be a very human tendency to think that if I lament loud and long such that others can see and maybe even feel my contrition, then the sin will somehow be diminished or even overlooked. Thus, the emphasis shifts to the lamentation and away from vanquishing the sin. While this may be a human tendency, this sort of lament is useless for the believer. It is like enlarging and hanging on the wall the PET scan that reveals your cancer while ignoring the treatment plan that will get rid of the disease. The goal is to kill the cancer, not admire the evidence. In the same way, the disciple laments the sin long enough to fan into flame a holy hatred of that sin, and then trains the cannons of sin-killing artillery on the target such that it never rises again. The goal is to kill the sin, not perform your lament.

So, having seen and lamented the sin, the disciple resolves to expose, to root out, and to destroy the hated sin. The disciple moves quickly and resolutely from lamentation to repentance because the calling is to holiness.

But what is the disciple to do about the sin they have committed? Sin has been exposed and the one who sinned has confessed the sin and is now walking more carefully and in repentance, but doesn’t the sin remain?

No! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

Jesus Christ died for that sin, too. Almost two thousand years ago, Christ died on Calvary’s cross to atone for all the sins of His people. Christ has been punished in my place, to bear the wrath of God for my sin so that I can walk free and without fear. So, I do not unduly lament the sin because Jesus has died for that sin, as well. My condemnation has been forever removed and now I am free to repent while I hunger for ever greater holiness.

SDG                 rmb                 6/1/2021                     #410

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