I’ve started reading John Owen’s book, Indwelling Sin in Believers*. The first chapter is called “The Enemy Within” and it’s based on Romans 7:21: “I find then, a law; that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” I’m fascinated by this – I need to be – because I live it every day. Owen makes the following observations:
· indwelling sin is called a law – an inward principle that motivates our actions
· the apostle Paul found this law of indwelling sin in himself
· despite this law of indwelling sin, our wills as believers are habitually inclined to do good
· when we want most to obey, indwelling sin is especially active in rebelling and pushing us toward evil.
I spent time in Romans 7 last year because I find it pretty easy to beat myself up over this stuff and am quick to feel defeated and discouraged. I feel strong when I’m in my ‘prayer closet’ and weak on my frontline – because that’s where the battle mostly rages. The problem is the battle isn’t usually ‘out there’; it’s within.
And that’s when I have to remember, keep remembering, I also have the indwelling Spirit because I am a believer and follower of Christ. He promised to give the Spirit to dwell in and with us until He comes again, and He delivered.
I like Owen’s analogy: “He that swims against the stream finds it to be strong, but he that rolls along with it is insensible to it.” He’s talking about swimming along with the stream of sin and how it dulls our awareness when we keep going along with it, but how hard it is to swim against it. And I think that analogy works for the Spirit, too. We can ‘roll along’ with the Spirit, and be almost unaware of Him directing us, or we can resist Him.
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6).
(*John Owen, Indwelling Sin in Believers, first published 1667)