“I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate.” Paul’s existential angst is a timeless description of our common human condition. We all can relate to the seeming inability to do what is right in so many situations. It can really drive us nuts, even to a constant low-level discouragement that underlies almost everything we do.
Paul’s prescription for dealing with this does not rely on law. That’s right. Paul understood that putting our willpower and effort into obeying commands gets us nowhere because we will eventually fail. The law just shows us how bad off we really are in this world. We are a bundle of contradictions, doing good, then bad, and flip-flopping back and forth with great frustration.
“What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body of that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.” Sheer willpower and obedience will not work because what we really need is a Savior who will deliver us from ourselves. Grace, then, is the operative power that changes lives, and not law. Freedom from the tyranny of our misplaced desires comes from Christ’s forgiveness through the cross. Like a lover enamored with his beloved, our desires become oriented toward Jesus for his indescribable gift to us. That is the strength of grace.
Saving God, I thank you for delivering me from sin, death, and hell through your Son, the Lord Jesus. May your Holy Spirit apply the work of grace to my life every day so that I can realize practical freedom from all that is damaging and destructive in my soul. Amen.