The Combat Zone Of The War: Within The Christian

This is Part 2 of the Lent Series titled, 

Text: Romans 7:14-8:1

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Every single Sunday during the Divine Service, you and I confess that we are by nature, sinful and unclean.  For some of you, you have been confessing this only for a short time, since you are either young or new to the church.  Others of you have been confessing this your entire life – for decades upon decades.    
And here is the catch, no matter what is going on in your life, you confess.  When things are going bad, you confess that you are by nature, sinful and unclean.  And when things are going great, you still confess that you are by nature, sinful and unclean. 

We also see this in our prayers.  Think about the hundreds – no, thousands of times that you have prayed the Lord’s Prayer and asked for the forgiveness of your trespasses.  Indeed, no matter the season of your life, you continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask for the forgiveness of sins. 

Now, many well-meaning people think that we are wrong for confessing that we are by nature sinful and unclean.  In fact, they teach that once a person becomes a Christian, he or she is no longer a sinner.  And since a Christian is no longer a sinner, there is no longer a need for confession.  The famous televangelist, Joyce Meyer, has said it this way,

“I am NOT poor! I am NOT miserable, and I am NOT a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of Hell. That is what I were and if I still was then Jesus died in vain! I’m going to tell you something folks; I didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore.”[1] 
And there are others who oppose this regular confession of sin. There are so-called Christians who walk around with their noses high in the air, acting like they do not struggle with sin anymore – that sin is a little thing that they conquered a long time ago.  They pretend that all is well and that they are now living a victorious life.   

Well, my friends, these individuals are misinformed.  They are wrong and na├»ve at best. You see, plain reason and experience show us that we Christians struggle with sin.  Not just in the past, but every single day.   
But why do we struggle with sin, even though we are baptized?  My friends, sin ‘remains’ after baptism.[2]  Yes, sin remains after your baptisms.  In fact, the Apostle Paul says in our Epistle reading that, “sin dwells within [him.]”[3]  Paul, as a Christian, says that sin dwells in him and he does this in the present tense. 
But this brings up a problem.  If sin remains after our baptisms, does this mean that our baptisms somehow did not work?  Should we be re-baptized again because of our sin?  Or, should we use more water in our baptisms, as if more water might help with this ongoing problem with sin?  Maybe, we should submerge people in baptism and hold them under the water a little bit longer?  Not too long though.    

Baptized Saints, your baptism did work and is working.  Your baptism removed the guilt of sin, which means that your sin is without God’s wrath against it.  You see, as long as you remain in your baptisms, your sin, which is in you, cannot condemn you before God.  Your sin is dead and harmless before God’s anger, as long as you continue in this baptismal grace.[4]
Permit me the opportunity to explain this a bit more. 

Let us imagine for a moment that we have a bunch of Christians, and godless Pagans lined up on a wall, much like a police lineup.  And let us imagine that we have an instrument that can test for the sinful nature.  So, if we wave this instrument in front of every person in the lineup, what do we find?  Well, the instrument would indicate that every person in the lineup is a sinner.  Yes, every single person in the line would be guilty of sin – the Christian and the godless Pagan.  Furthermore, if this instrument could test for things such as anger and evil desires, it would show that every single person is exactly the same.  The godly and the ungodly would have the same motion of anger and evil desires.[5]

So, what must we conclude?  Are we to conclude that everyone in the lineup is guilty before God Almighty?  Absolutely not!  The reason why?  The Christian is baptized and wrapped in Christ’s righteousness.  The sin in the Christian is forgiven, God does not count it against the Christian.  Indeed, everyone in the lineup has the same sin, but the Christians in the lineup have an antidote to sin – a remedy.[6]  They have Jesus and His gifts by grace through faith. 

And so, we can confess that we are real sinners, just like the Apostle Paul, and just like everyone else around us.  We can confess that no one is good, not even one.[7]  We can confess that we have real sin presently within us.  This old Adam – this sinful nature remains within us. 

However, we must never forget that this sinful nature is not our friend but our enemy. Unlike pagans, this sinful nature within us is an unwelcomed evil guest.  Yes, when we were baptized, we were put under the dominion of grace; therefore, the sinful nature was kicked off the throne of our hearts and now finds itself surrounded by the Lord’s grace and constantly confronted by the new man in Christ.  That’s right; for the baptized – for you – the sinful nature is not a welcomed guest but dead weight – dead weight that can do nothing but sin. 

So, dear Baptized Christians, since you still have the sinful nature and since the sinful nature is within you, it means that every moment, every thought, every word, and every deed becomes a combat zone for you against your sinful old Adam.  As a Saint and Sinner, you will experience both sin and trust in God in all your works and doings as long as you are on this earth.[8]

Sure there are battles in the culture to fight, and there are battles against the devil to be had, but the battle that is closest to home is right there in your heart.

Practically speaking, at your job, the sinful nature will work to get you to grumble and gossip towards your boss.  As a husband or wife, your sinful nature will cause you to resent your spouse and quarrel.  As a parent or grandparent, school teacher, farmer, manufacturer, and church member, the sinful nature is at work bringing about jealousy, greed, fits of rage, factions, rebellion, and so forth in your vocations. 

Is there a problem with your job?  It is the sinful nature at work in you and your neighbor. 

Is there a problem at school?  It is the sinful nature at work in you and your neighbor.

Is there a problem in the family?  It is the sinful nature at work in you and your neighbor.

Is there a problem in Gwinner?  It is the sinful nature at work in you and your neighbor. 

Is there a problem in America?  It is the sinful nature at work in you and your neighbor.

The sinful nature leads us to “do not what we want to do, but do the very thing that we hate.”[9]  The sinful nature is within us and leads us to cry out with the Apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[10]  Yes, who will deliver us from this body of death – the treachery of the old Adam? 

The one who will deliver you is Jesus Christ, Son of God. 

Dear Baptized Saints, in the midst of this agonizing struggle with the old Adam, what we need to hear and hear often is that God gives deliverance through Jesus.  In fact, in Christ, the victory has already been won! 

The ramifications of this cannot be quickly overlooked.  You see, we continually pray for forgiveness of sins, because Jesus has accomplished and freely gives us forgiveness.   And we confess sins because the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.[11]  Yes, we confess that we are sinners – we ‘rat out’ the old Adam because Jesus has come to call sinners.[12] 

It is like this: we come to the Lord’s church often and regularly to confess that we are poor miserable sinner.  And when we do this, it is like we are dragging this sinful nature before the throne of grace, throwing ourselves upon the mercy of the Lord.  And then, right there in the sanctuary with our sinful nature laid bare, the Lord delivers you and me by pouring not wrath, but His grace, forgiveness, and salvation upon us through His Word and Sacraments. 

And so, we come to this church and this altar continually so that we might hear about the victorious one who has delivered and is delivering us from the old Adam.  We come to this holy house so that the Lord might continually create a clean heart within and renew a right spirit within us, so that you and I might continue to fight the good fight against the war within.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

[1] Joyce Meyer, “Joyce Meyer is Not a Sinner,”, (accessed February 28, 2018).  
[2] Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II:35. 
[3] See Romans 7:17.
[4] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works Volume 32: Against Latomus (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 229.  
[5] Ibid, 207.
[6] Ibid, 252.
[7] See Romans 3:10.
[8] Martin Luther, Against Latomus, 233.
[9] See Romans 7:19.
[10] See Romans 7:24.
[11] See 1 John 1:9.
[12] See Matthew 9:13.

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