“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” Romans 7:18
I suppose I should not be surprised that I struggle so often with doing what I want or ought to do, yet I continue in bad habits that hang onto me for dear life. Even the Apostle Paul had difficulty in this area all those years ago. I’ve always thought that much of my struggle has to do with living a distracted and fragmented life. Yet Paul didn’t have the things that I have to take my eyes off the goal. I have a phone – at all times, thanks to the development of the portable, cellular version. I have a computer, complete with access to that ever-inviting, all-knowing worldwide web. I have television (more than one, of course) to entice me away from my own reality. I have more “stuff” enter my house in just one year than Paul likely ever had in his entire life. I have a library card, which allows me to bring home numerous books on a regular basis. Of course, that’s in addition to the hundreds of books and magazines I already own or purchase. I have a stereo with myriad choices of CDs and stations to which I can listen. And that’s just in my house. I could list the many things outside my home that are available to me – but I won’t.
Somehow I have clung to the ideal that if I were to live a “simpler” life, then certainly I could live a much holier life. Yet when I read Paul’s words, I think that maybe the struggle is really not as much a matter of what distracts me, as it is a matter of my flesh. Though my flesh is influenced by these many diversions, I would still have to contend with its self-centered, ungodly desires, even if I were sitting on an island with none of the aforementioned things. It turns out that the stuff I try to wrangle under control is not the real problem. Nor is controlling it the answer.
The answer lies in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.
“Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-25
“And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:10-11
It is through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me that I will be able to overcome my flesh. This is why, in Romans 12:1-2, Paul implores his brothers and sisters in the Lord to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
As I spend time in God’s word, my mind will be transformed away from the patterns of this world and its lusts. If I will focus upon offering my self as a living sacrifice to the Lord, my slate is cleared to hear from Him, to be led by His will. I do not have to live in bondage to my clamorous flesh. I have victory because of the finished work of Christ at the cross, not because I've simplified my environment.