Many who struggle with addictions have found help by joining a twelve-step program. Developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, the twelve steps begin by having participants admit that they are powerless over their addiction and that their lives have become unmanageable. The key to healing lies in recognizing that we are not in control.
If we want to overcome sin, we must come to a similar realization. We must admit that despite our desire to do good, “good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (v. 18). Even when we agree with God’s law and want to obey, we discover that there is “another law at work” (v. 23). This is “the law of sin at work within me” (v. 23). The impulses of our sinful nature create an insurmountable problem for those who hope to be made righteous based on their own efforts. It is not enough to affirm God’s moral standard and intend to obey His commands. Despite our agreement with God and even our sincere desire to do what is right, we will find that the law of sin will always work against us.
Does this passage create a feeling of desperation within you? While this is Paul’s intent, he does not leave us without hope. If all we can do is rely upon our own effort, we might as well end with Paul’s cry in verse 24: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Instead, Paul ends with a prayer of thanks in verse 25 pointing to the solution: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
>> If it weren’t for the grace of God, the best we could hope for is to be servants of God in mind but slaves to sin in practice. Like an addict, we receive God’s help when we admit that we are helpless. Hand your life over to Jesus Christ today!
We are helpless against sin, Almighty God. We take shelter in your power, trusting that you are always sanctifying us, even when we can’t perceive your hand at work.