Why do I keep doing things I know are wrong?
What you are describing is the common experience of all Christians. The Apostle Paul speaks of this in Romans 7:18-25: “18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
As Christian people we are not yet perfect. Paul says here that sin is so deeply entrenched in our nature that though, as Christians, we now have the desire to do what pleases God, we still find that we struggle daily to do so. Those things we shouldn’t do, we still find ourselves doing. And those things we should do (like reading the Word of God regularly), we find hard to accomplish. We will continue to have to fight this battle with our sinful nature until the day we die (v24) and it is a battle we cannot win in our own power.
This may sound bleak. Where is the hope in all this? The hope comes from the Gospel, the knowledge that Jesus Christ died and rose again in order to deliver us from death. We cannot deal with the sin in our lives unless we have first understood the Gospel and received Jesus for ourselves. If you haven’t already, why not look at this Gospel presentation called CrossCheck at www.crosscheck.org.uk?
The Gospel isn’t just that he has saved us from death, but also that he has put His Spirit in us that we might be transformed to be like Him. Paul goes on in Romans 8:1-2: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
You can be assured that if you have come to Christ you are no longer under God’s wrath. And you can be assured that He has placed His Holy Spirit in you who brings life and freedom from sin. Does this mean you are now perfect? No, the struggle with sin continues, but now that struggle is no longer just your own, the Spirit of God is at work in you to deal with your sin and change you to be like Christ. Paul goes on in Romans 8 to instruct us that those who have the Spirit must now listen to Him and co-operate with Him in dealing with the sin our lives. Sin does not just ‘disappear’, you must put it to death – get rid of it from your life – but that can only be done in the Spirit’s power. And holiness does not just happen automatically, we must work hard to be holy (Hebrews 12:14), but again that is only possible in the Spirit’s power at work within us. When we invite the Spirit to work in our hearts and co-operate with Him by taking steps to deal with the things is not right in us, when we are obedient to Him, we find that we become confident that we belong to Him and find peace in our hearts. As it says in 1 John 3:19-24: “19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: we know it by the Spirit he gave us.” 1 John 3:19-24