The Paradox of the Christian Life


And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. -Romans 7:18-19

Isn’t this the reason for some of our deepest sorrows and battles as we try to follow Jesus? It’s the battle between the girl made new in Christ and the girl left behind in our old lives who seems to reappear all too often. We run ourselves to the point of exhaustion trying to do more of what’s good, and when we fail, we’re left feeling condemned, ashamed, and in fear of our Heavenly Father.

Have you ever wondered if there was more? More than this cycle of running away and returning, messing up and dusting ourselves off?

If you have ever felt this way, you are in good company. Every Christian walks through this process of sanctification.

We know that we have been given a positional holiness in Christ — because of His death on our behalf, His perfection covers us and reconciles us with our Father, so that when God looks on us He sees Jesus’s holiness instead of our sinfulness. This is how we can have a relationship with a holy God. But while we are here on Earth, we are called to pursue the process of becoming more like Jesus, and this practical holiness is sanctification. This is the time we spend putting to death our old selves and choosing to seek the things of God.

Sanctification is a grueling and messy process. It seems like we’re always wrestling with different sins, constantly nailing them to the cross, falling down and getting back up again. So, what do we do when it seems like this battle consumes our entire lives and we aren’t seeing any of the joy, love, or abundance that He promised?

This brings us back to Romans 7. If we look at just verses 18-19, it seems pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? But if we look a little further in the passage, it says this: “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

The Paradox of the Christian Life

What is the answer to these lives of bondage? The answer is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus enables us to have victory over this vicious cycle. Jesus died for our sins. You are forgiven. You have been freed from the power of sin.

In our shame over our failures, we too often hide from the Father because we are afraid of Him. But running away keeps us in chains. We are locked into the Romans 7:18-19 way of life. There is no spiritual growth when we stay away from God because we aren’t making ourselves available for the Holy Spirit to do His tender work in us!

Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” When you struggle with what I call “The Paradox of the Christian Life” -- the wanting to do what is right but not having the power to do it -- the answer isn’t trying harder to fix ourselves. The answer is not running away from Jesus or trying to make yourself better before you come back to Him. That is not the Gospel.

If you want to try harder at something, spend more time running to Jesus with your weaknesses, because that is when you will begin to see real change in your relationship with the Lord and with others. You will see victory over the strongholds in your life and your relationship with the Lord will flourish. He promises us this: “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).