In Romans seven, the Apostle Paul writes much of the opposing laws which are at work in his members (his body and spirit). That in his mind he wishes to obey the law of God, but finds a different law at work in his body: that of sin and death. What he would, he does not; what he would not, that he does.
He ends the chapter with a lament:
“Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”
From history, we’re told that this metaphor had its basis in fact: one of the crueller forms of execution was to lash a corpse to the condemned, exile them, and allow them to be slowly killed by the putrefaction of the corpse.
Give me a quick, clean death, folks.
Yet for most of us, it doesn’t happen this way: we are born dead, and continue to slowly die by degrees. Until our flesh dies indeed. Thence to stand before God, making an account of our deeds.
Those of us who, like Paul before us, are believers, are in a sense bipolar: we are alive in spirit, but still carrying around our dead flesh. We are a people of dualing natures. Like Paul, we want to obey God; like him, we do the things we would not. Having walked with God for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years, or more, our flesh is no more sanctified than a mere babe in Christ’s.
But really the battle is not in the flesh, rather in the mind. The mind is the battleground, where the unholy three wage tireless war against us:
The world, the flesh, and the devil.
Assaults on our bodies drag our minds down, making us more likely to succumb to temptation. Likewise, pleasure sings its siren song–promising succor, rest, but delivering instead death. And old slewfoot (the devil) whispers in ways th only he can, telling us we deserve, or need, want, or are owed…
But it’s a lie.
What we deserve is death. Christ for our sins was crucified, the righteous for the unrighteous, paying a debt he did not owe. One which we could not pay. In his mercy, God provided the way of atonement.
It is a narrow path, fraught with both victories, and setbacks. Still his love covers a multitude of sins, and his grace is sufficient. When we are weak, we are strong: for his strength is made perfect in our weakness.
For myself, if I’ve learned anything from my wife’s illness it’s how very weak, and frail, I am. How in my impotency and powerlessness I’m so quick to seek succor in escape (reading, television, liquor) rather than at the feet of my Lord.
“Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God! Through Jesus Christ our Lord!”