I wrote something yesterday that is incorrect. I said that I need to quit tying to control what God does (it is like trying to hold a butterfly without crushing it) and let the Holy Spirit be in control. However, I can no more make my hands let go of the butterfly than fly like one.
Paul knew it. He wrote in Romans 7 about the struggle between his new spiritual nature that is united with Christ and produces righteousness, and his old, sinful nature that is bent on its own way and if it gets it, produces death.
The apostle asks, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul recognized that as long as he was in his mortal body he would face conflict between the Holy Spirit and this indwelling sin principle. However, he also knew that he could not win this battle in his own strength.
He calls this sin principle the “body of death.” I heard that in those days, sometimes a murderer was punished by tying the corpse of his victim on his back until it rotted to nothing. I can’t verify this gruesome practice, but the image it provides explains Paul’s words and brings them into sharp focus. When I sin, the results of that sin are strapped to me like a dead man, its stench permeating and affecting everything I do. I too cry out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The answer is in verse 25: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Notice, he did not say, “I’m thankful that I’m set free from sin.” Nor did he say, “I am so glad that I’ve figured out how to get rid of this.” He knew who saved him and he thanked the right person. Jesus Christ gets the glory.
By myself, in my own strength, I cannot even get out of God’s way, never mind do His work. I cannot save myself. He does it. Without His intervention, I will not only attempt to control Him, but will thwart His efforts to deliver me.
Jesus saved me from the penalty of sin; death and eternal damnation no longer have any power over me. But I am still being delivered from the power of sin. That power is not some external entity that hovers over me with threats and temptations—it is that sinful principle, that body of death tied to my back, that stench of my old nature that goes with me wherever I go. My only hope for deliverance is through Jesus Christ. I cannot do it myself.
So again, I thank God that the one who rescues me from myself and my sin is not me. It is Jesus, my Savior and Lord.