That Thing You Do (That You Do Not Want To Do)
Each week we will be sharing a post from a staff member in response to the most recent sermon in our “Good News” series. Click to watch or listen to the sermon shared by Crosspoint Campus Pastor Chris DeArman on Sunday April 25, 2021.
If you haven’t seen the movie “That Thing You Do” then the immensely clever title of this blog post will be lost on you, and that’s a shame. As I sat down to reflect on the message this past Sunday from Pastor Chris, this line popped into my head in relation to the primary string of verses covered in the sermon:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:15-20
Now, if you’re like me, I’m going to call you out- for those that just skipped over that verse quotation above because you’ve read those verses a million times and feel like you know them, I need you to go back and read them slowly and deliberately.
When we see a lot of words and phrases repeated in different ways it is so easy to skim over the message. What we have here is a man that has a strong desire to do good, but lacks the will power to carry it out. Chris shared an example of when he counsels people who are unsure about their place with God; “Am I really saved if I keep doing this sin?” Chris always answers that question with a question; “Does that sin in your life bother you?” Without fail, the person he is counseling says “Of course! That’s why I’m here.”
This is the question I want to dwell on today- does the sin in your life bother you? Or maybe the better question is, has that sin in your life ever bothered you? We are imperfect people and, therefore, imperfect in our perception of sin in our life, so I believe we all have unrecognized sin in our heart. I am not talking about those sins because every single person in the world will die with a sin in their heart that they didn’t think was a sin. What I am talking about are the times that your heart dropped to your stomach when a pastor mentioned a sin struggle in his sermon, leading you to the feeling that the entire message was meant for you. I’m talking about the sins that come up when you read through Scripture that you seek to find online “proof” that supports the idea that this sin isn’t really a sin. I’m talking about that thing that the Holy Spirit clearly called you out on, but you brushed aside his leading or stuffed down the conviction to an inaccessible part of your heart. How do you feel about those sins?
The validity of your relationship with Jesus hinges on how you feel about those sins. Even Paul, a man revered for his faith, confesses in this passage that there are sins in his life which he hates, but that he repeatedly cannot overcome. He knows they are sins, but he struggles to defeat them. The proof of your faith is in the struggle, not in the thing you do. Now, I believe it is possible there are sins that we can ignore to the point that we no longer believe they are really sins. However, if someone in your community group or the pastor directly asked you about it, you would deny, or confess that area as a sin? That is the area God wants to work on. That is the area Paul is talking about. That is the struggle against flesh that this passage in Romans discusses.
So what do we do with those sins? Paul gives us the answer in verses 24-25:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
“Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul looks not to himself, but to Christ, to deliver him from his body of death. The actual defeat of sin will not take place until we die on this earth, and that victory is assured because of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. The death to our fleshly desires will not come until our actual flesh has died. So there’s good news and bad news: our victory over sin is guaranteed through accepting Christ’s payment on the cross. However, the battle will wage on until we breathe our last breath.
I was at a men’s breakfast at a church I worked at early in my career, and the topic of lust came up in the teaching. The pastor was discussing how the battle of lust really is a life long battle. To illustrate his point, he casually called out to the oldest man in the crowd who he had known for decades. “You’ve lived longer than any of us here. Does the battle with lust ever go away?” From the back of the room, we hear the man (well into his 80s) call out matter-of-factly “no!”
Many will say, “If there is no permanent victory on this side of eternity, why bother to battle?” I think the answer to this question can be found in thinking of our battle against our flesh as an actual battle. How many soldiers will be saved from death in a seemingly hopeless battle if every soldier continues to fight with everything they’ve got? When victory seems impossible, the strength of those who continue to battle will save those around them.
How will your kids be saved and spared from struggle if you continue to fight the battle against your flesh?
How will they be scarred if you give up the fight?
How will your spouse be lifted and protected if you continue to fight against that sin buried in your heart?
How will they be damaged if you slacken your resolve in the resistance?
How will your friends be inspired in their own war against sin when they see your relentless pursuit of holiness?
How will they fall deeper into sin if you display an unwillingness to continue your own battle?
We fight for holiness with the power of the Holy Sprit because we are not the only ones hurt by our fleshly desires. Your love of God and your love of others will be the fuel for your battle against sin if you would only remind yourself that those you love the most depend on your resolve to fight for holiness.
Think about those that you love most when you consider giving up the fight. Let their well being compel you to dig deep, grab the hand of the Holy Spirit, and run straight into a life long battle against your sin, knowing that in the end, we will win no matter what. And as we look at a spiritual battlefield covered with foes, we need only to remember a line from a song we’ve recently started singing together on Sundays:
When I fight, I fight on my knees / With my hands lifted high / oh God, the battle belongs to You
That thing you do (that you do not want to do) is not a barrier to your salvation; that thing you do (that you do not want to do) is simply proof that your salvation is real, but your sanctification is in process.
Justin Kellough is the Media Arts Pastor for the CityRise Network, providing leadership to all areas of our online ministry to people in our city and the world. Justin lives in Stafford with his wife, Kristen, and their children, Maggie and Bear.