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"For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." Romans 7:15

Some would have us believe that, when we become Christians, all our struggles in life go away. But, actually, the opposite is true. When the Holy Spirit washes away our sins and regenerates us through the preaching of the Gospel and by means of Holy Baptism -- bringing us to trust in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for our salvation -- the struggle begins.

When the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Christ, He takes up residence in our hearts and continues the sanctifying work which He has begun in us. He regenerates us and creates in us new natures which trust in God and His promises and love God and seek and desire to be pleasing to God and do His will. This new nature trusts in Christ's death and resurrection for salvation and, as a fruit of that faith, seeks to do all that God commands and teaches in His Word.

The problem is that we still also have our old sinful natures inherited from Adam which do not trust in God and His promises and seek, rather, to gratify our old sinful longings and desires. And so, though we according to the new man -- the new nature created in us by the Holy Spirit of God -- will and seek to do what God commands, the old sinful nature in each of us would rather do its own thing and wills and does what it pleases to gratify its sin-corrupted self.

The result is that what we will to do we do not practice; and what we hate and do not wish to do, that we do. And how frustrating this is for us as Christians! We trust in Christ alone for pardon and forgiveness and, as a fruit of faith, we seek to be pleasing to Him in all things. Yet, we fail again and again. We don't do the things we know we should be doing, and we do the things we hate.

With the apostle, we say: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).

In fact, that is why we begin our worship services each Sunday acknowledging and confessing our utter sinfulness and our inability to free ourselves from our sinful condition, and it is why we ask God, Sunday after Sunday (actually, each day), to deal with us in mercy for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for us upon the cross.

And the Apostle Paul also tells us the solution to this wretchedness: "I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (v. 25); and, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). He explains that when we walk according to the Spirit, we are not condemned because, through faith in Christ, we have the pardon and forgiveness Christ won for us on the cross and we are clothed with His perfect righteous and holy life.

Some might assume that walking by the Spirit is our own endeavor to live a righteous and holy life, but walking by the Spirit is walking in the truth which God's Spirit reveals to us through God's Word. Walking by the Spirit is acknowledging and confessing the sins the Spirit reveals to us through the preaching of God's Law, and it is taking comfort in the Gospel message of mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ's holy life for us and His innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world. Cf. 1 John 1:5 -- 2:2.

As we come to worship and to receive the body and blood of Christ Jesus which was given and shed for us on the cross, we confess our wretchedness -- that we have sinned against the Lord God in our thoughts, desires, words and deeds and that we are truly deserving of God's wrath and punishments, both temporal and eternal.

But we flee to the cross of Jesus for mercy. Through the preaching of the Gospel and through God's word of absolution, we take comfort in the fact that "Jesus Christ the righteous ... is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:1,2). We have a certain hope of God's forgiveness and of a place in God's everlasting kingdom because Jesus gave His body into death for us and shed His holy and precious blood on the cross to establish a new covenant in which our sins are forgiven and we are accepted as God's people. We are comforted with pardon and peace as we partake of Christ's sacrifice in this covenant meal!

And, for the sake of Christ's death and resurrection, we have the assurance that when we awake on the last day, it will be without sin to serve our God forever and ever in righteousness and holiness. We confess with David: "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness" (Psalm 17:15).

"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Religion on 03/13/2019

Print Headline: 'O wretched man that I am!'

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