Have you ever grown despondent from trying so hard to stop behaving in certain destructive ways, but always failing? Have you ever cried out in despair, “What is wrong with me?”
Our fallen human condition has made all of us subject to certain passions. The more we fight them the more power they seem to have. We try to force ourselves to be under control by means of the law. We tell ourselves what we must do and how we should think. We tell ourselves what we must stop doing and stop thinking. It seems logical to try to whip ourselves into shape by laying down the law and then using willpower to obey it. However, counterintuitively, that is only a recipe for repeated failure.
Do you know what the power of sin is? Do you know what actually fuels sin? According to scripture, it is the law! (1 Corinthians 15:56) Whether it's the written code of the ten commandments or the internal code of the expectations and demands we place on ourselves, the law in any and every form actually is the power that fuels or increases sin! In Romans 7Paul says that the law arouses our sinful passions. He says sin seizes an opportunity through the commandment and produces the very things we are not supposed to do, think and feel. Sin, using the law, deceives us. The law, which tells us the good we should do, actually makes it exponentially worse! The harder we try, the more we find ourselves doing, thinking and feeling exactly what we do not want.
We don't understand this. It makes us desperate and drives us to despair until we, with Paul, cry out, 'What is wrong with me? Who will save me from myself?' Paul's answer is that Jesus saves us, not by enabling us to finally obey the law, as we would expect, but by taking it upon himself, and thus removing, the condemnation for our inability to obey the law! (Romans 8:1)
Paul, then, goes on to say that Christians will actually stop living the life of the written code, or the law. In other words, they cease their striving rooted in fear of the dire consequences that will occur if they are unable to force themselves, by sheer force of will, to be, do, think and feel the way they 'should'. Rather, they begin to live a new life, the life of the Spirit.
In this new way of life, led by the Holy Spirit, every destructive thought or deed can be viewed as a new opportunity to say, "I just did this or thought this again, Lord. I recognize my powerlessness. I know that the source of my thought/action is my 'Old Adam' or my sinful flesh. It is not who I am in Christ. By faith, I give this failure to you, and by faith I humbly acknowledge and accept your forgiveness for it." That is life in the Spirit; no focus on our own record of doing it "right", only the giving of our failures to God and, by faith, accepting God’s undeserved love and forgiveness in return.
That is true for everyone. No matter who you are or what your struggle is, because of Christ, you don't have to fear your failures. Each one gives us the opportunity to thank God for his mercy in the face of it. Even while your thoughts are still accusing you, you can thank him for his forgiveness. One of the ways the Spirit fights the flesh is through our confession of sin and our gratitude to God for his forgiveness in the midst of it. We thank him that, even while we are failing, he has no condemnation for us, because of Christ.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” - Hebrews 4:16.
This verse tells us that we can confidently go straight to God, in the midst of our mess, when we are at our worst, and without delay we receive mercy and grace, which are the only things which will help us in our time of need.
As a result, sin will begin to lose its grip on us. We offer our failures to God. We come to him and thank him right then, by faith in the sufficiency of Christ, for his love and forgiveness. We do this, not as some law, not as some ritual, but because he bids us to come; and, bit by bit his mercy and grace, given in our time of need, begins to remake us. Then, whenever familiar despair threatens to overwhelm us we can say with confidence, "Well may the Accuser roar, of sins that I have done; I know them all and thousands more, Jehovah knoweth none!"