Not I, But Christ
by Joseph Perrello
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Not I, But Christ
Some have compared chapter seven of Paul’s epistle to the Romans to a starless sky, whereas chapter eight - which sets forth the secret of the believer’s victory over sin - is like a mid-summer morning with the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
Set aside what you are doing for a while and read chapter seven of Romans and compare it to chapter eight. What a contrast! Chapter seven describes a completely defeated individual; one who has endeavored to employ every means of self-effort to achieve a holy life, but has failed.
The reason for the failure is clearly evident in this chapter. It is the pronoun “I,” that appears therein twenty-seven times in reference to this defeated individual. Too numerous to cite in this short article, the following few passages exemplify the person’s quandary: In verse fourteen he states, “I am sold as a slave to sin.” In verse fifteen he says, “I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate doing.” In verse nineteen, he confesses, “I don’t do the good that I want to do; instead I do the evil that I do not want to do.”
The above statements describe the frustration of a person who sincerely desires to live holy and pure, thus endeavoring to attain to the requirements of God’s laws. He attempts to accomplish this by his own human effort, using his own moral integrity and ethical character, but ends with a resounding defeat. He sadly discovers that all his endeavors to rise to the requirements of God’s laws by human ability are unable to sanctity – they do not make him holy and pure, as God requires. He realizes that the dictates of the laws of God are impossible for him to attain in his own power – by his own ability.
As you read this article, perhaps you’re thinking, “Hey, the writer is talking about me; what he’s writing describes me perfectly!” Using your human abilities, you may have made multiple attempts to live a victorious Christian life; however you are still bound by that sinful habit, still doing things that you know should have no part is a believer’s walk with Jesus Christ. You are frustrated, about to give it all up. “After all,” you my be thinking, “I gave it more than a good try. I gave it everything I had. I just can’t live as God’s Word teaches that a Christian should live.” So, in frustration, you’re giving it up – quitting.
Some time ago, I dealt with a man who had given up the Christian life. Yet, he admitted to me that he realized he should return to Christ. “I really do desire to live for Christ, but each time I try, I fail; so I quit trying,” he stated. He had been attempting to live as a victorious Christian ever since he surrendered to the Lord at ten years of age. By the time I met him, he had given up on it as a useless and impossible accomplishment. He informed me that he finally realized he was too weak.
“I would serve Christ for one or two weeks and then I would fall away for months and sometimes years at a time. So what’s the use of trying to do something I can’t do?” he said to me.
Without realizing it, this person had been living in Romans, chapter eight, verses one through seven. It was my joyous privilege to guide him into Romans chapter eight, verses one through thirty-nine: “There is now no condemnation for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Jesus Christ, has set me free from the law of sin and death. What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like man’s sinful nature, to do away with sin. God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to human nature. Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace. And so a person becomes an enemy of God when he is controlled by his human nature; for he does not obey God’s law, and in fact he cannot obey it. Those who obey their their human nature cannot please God . . . For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. Those who are led by God’s spirit are God’s sons [children]” - (Roman chapter eight, verses 1- 8 & verses 13 - 14; Good News Bible, Today’s English Version).
I read the above passages to this young man, explaining to him that to him that one of God’s blessings to every believer is the cleansing, sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I pointed out to him that it is the Holy Spirit who grants us victory over sin. When he grasped the truth of the power of the Holy Spirit to cleanse him, he yielded to Him completely. For more than a decade now, he has been enjoying a victorious life in Christ. He and his wife have become pillars in their local church and they have been instrumental in winning others to Christ and nurturing them to Christian maturity.
This same victory can also be your own, but you must believe that it is for you. The Apostle Paul wrote, “So far as the Law is concerned . . . I am dead – killed by the Law itself - in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians, chapter two, verses 19 – 20; nineteen and twenty, Good News Bible, Today’s English Version). Believers already are crucified with Christ Jesus. Their old nature is dead and it now is Jesus Christ who is imparting his life to their new nature!
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Sure, Josprel, that’s easy for you to say, but it really isn’t practical. I don’t see how I can accomplish this in my life.”
My response to your comment is that you first eliminate that small pronoun “I” from your quest to gain victory over sin, because you’re correct, you cannot gain such a victory in yourself. But the Jesus Christ can do so for you! It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, to cleanse and to sanctify the believer. All we need do is to yield to the Holy Spirit within us. As the Apostle Paul wrote, it is a “Yet not I, but Christ” victory a believer must attain.
© Joseph Perrello (Josprel)
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Excellent writing. Good grammar, correct spelling. Most important of all - it is full of truth.