The believer has an old nature that wants to keep him in bondage; “I will get free from these old sins!” the disciple says to himself. “I determine here and now that I will not do this any longer.”
Jesus needs to take control of my heart. I need to stay in God’s word. I must love what Jesus says to me.
- What happens? He exerts all his willpower and energy, and for a time succeeds; but then when he least expects it, he falls again. His heart isn’t it and ground in God’s word.
- Why? Because he tried to overcome his old nature with Law, and the Law cannot deliver us from the old nature.
- When you move under the Law, you are only making the old nature stronger; because “the strength of sin is the Law” (1 Cor. 15:56). Instead of being a dynamo that gives us power to overcome, the Law is a magnet that draws out of us all kinds of sin and corruption.
The heart (inward man) may delight in the Law of God (Ps. 119:35), but the old nature delights in breaking the Law of God. No wonder the believer under Law becomes tired and discouraged, and eventually gives up! He is a captive, and his condition is “wretched.” (The Greek word indicates a person who is exhausted after a battle.) What could be more wretched than exerting all your energy to try to live a good life, only to discover that the best you do is still not good enough!
Is there any deliverance? Of course! “I thank God that there is Someone who shall deliver me—Jesus the Messiah, our Master!” Because the believer is united to The Messiah, he is dead to the Law and no longer under its authority. But he is alive to God and able to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit. The explanation of this victory is given in Romans 8.
By “the mind” Paul meant “the heart or inward man” (Rom. 7:22) as opposed to “the flesh” (Rom. 7:18). He amplified this thought in Romans 8:5–8. The old nature cannot do anything good. Everything the Bible says about the old nature is negative: “no good thing” (Rom. 7:18); “the flesh profited nothing” (John 6:63); “no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). If we depend on the energy of the flesh, we cannot serve God, please God, or do any good thing. But if we yield to the Holy Spirit, then we have the power needed to obey His will. The flesh will never serve the Law of God because the flesh is at war with God. But the Spirit can only obey the Law of God! Therefore, the secret of doing good is to yield to the Holy Spirit.
Paul hinted at this in the early verses of this chapter when he wrote, “That we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). Just as we are dead to the old nature, so we are dead to the Law. But we are united to The Messiah and alive in The Messiah, and therefore can bring forth fruit unto God. It is our union with The Messiah that enables us to serve God acceptably. “For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). That solved Paul’s problem in Romans 7:18: “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
My old nature knows no law and the new nature needs no law. Legalism makes a believer wretched because it grieves the new nature and aggravates the old nature! The legalist becomes a Pharisee whose outward actions are acceptable, but whose inward attitudes are despicable.
No wonder Jesus called them “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). How wretched can you get?
- Romans 7:22 — 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.
- Deuteronomy 4:9 — 9 “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.
- Psalm 37:31 — 31 The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.
- Psalm 119:11 — 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
- Psalm 119:30 — 30 I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.
- Psalm 119:111 — 111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart.
- Proverbs 6:21 — 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck.
- Jeremiah 15:16 — 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O Master God of hosts.
- Jeremiah 31:33 — 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Master, “I will put My law within them and on their heart, I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.