Have you ever been in an intense wrestling match? Wrestling matches between siblings are often much more entertaining and dangerous than WWE wrestling matches because, frankly, they are much more real. Growing up, I was about six years older than my brother, so I always had a physical advantage over him when we would fight. We didn’t fight all the time, but we always fought when we played games with each other. A game couldn’t pass by without one of us starting a fight. Our fights didn’t just begin the same way; they also always ended the same way—with me on top of my brother and my brother crying for help. In our fights, my brother didn’t stand a chance.
Romans 7:14-25 is all about a bitter struggle that occurs within the soul of every Christian. Paul emotionally and painfully cries out for deliverance at the end of Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul is describing the nature of the war that rages in the Christian mind and heart. It is an intense wrestling match against a formidable opponent. Sin is strong. If you give in to sin very quickly, it is because you are either not in Christ or underestimating the strength of your opponent. In fact, if you are giving in to sin quickly, you don’t even realize the bell has rung! From the moment your heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, there is a struggle with sin that doesn’t end until you die or Christ returns.
Genuinely fighting sin is exhausting. There is a serious temptation to give in because the fight is hard. But the greatest motivation for staying the course in our fight against sin is found in one simple, yet life-changing statement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Our struggle against sin is one we cannot lose, so it is one we must fight! No matter how hard sin fights against you, and no matter how many battles it wins, if you are in Christ, sin doesn’t stand a chance against you. Because Jesus died on the cross in your place, you will never have to face God’s wrath. He was condemned, so there is no condemnation for you. He became sin. You receive righteousness. Sin doesn’t stand a chance against you because you are united to the one that condemned sin. Nothing provides more freedom and hope to fight sin than knowing God’s wrath has been fully absorbed by Christ and there is none left for you. Justification not only leads to sanctification, it fuels it.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.