I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15
Have you ever found yourself picking up your phone, scrolling through social media, without even realizing what you were doing? I have certainly been guilty of that more often than I would like to admit. One moment, I am reading a new book, and the next, I am holding my phone scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, and I think, "How did that happen?" The truth is, that happens because an unrealized habit has formed. That is what happens with some habits, isn't it? They form unexpectedly, without us even realizing it. Now, it is great when good habits form, but many unsuspected habits that are formed are not healthy, good for us, or honoring to God. When we recognize our bad habits, even seemingly small bad habits such as spending too much time on our phones, it can feel overwhelming. The good news, however, is that discovering these bad habits is the first step in recovering from them. We need to realize that they have formed and name them for what they are: bad habits.
Nowhere is the battle between wanting to do what is right but struggling with sin better articulated in Scripture than in Romans 7. In this chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul writes, "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate" (verse 15). In saying this, Paul was explaining the tension between wanting to honor God and live an obedient life, but struggling with sin, with bad habits. Maybe you can relate to Paul's sentiment here. When was the last time you said to yourself, "I knew better than that!" or "I knew not to raise my voice in anger" or "I knew not to eat that third serving of dessert" or "I knew not to say that"? The frustration when this happens is almost enough to knock us down. While we may feel discouraged when we are caught in a cycle of bad habits, there is always hope. We can begin to take steps to change, with the help of God. We can start noticing when we fall in the trap of bad habits, ask for help from God and other people, and begin to change our actions.
What bad habits have you found yourself trapped in right now? Maybe you are caught up in gossip, in perpetual disobedience to God, or an addiction that you cannot seem to break the cycle of. My friend, there is hope beyond our bad habits. The first step is acknowledging it and reaching out for help, first to God, then to others around you. When this happens, chains of bad habits begin to break, and we begin to experience hope and healing.
If we want to overcome bad habits in our lives, it is time to recognize them and name them. That is your assignment today, should you choose to accept it. Name the bad habits you have formed in your life. Now, for some of you, there may be one or two that immediately come to mind. For others, it may take some time to uncover them. If you are struggling to think of any bad habits you might have formed, ask a trusted friend to help you recognize them.
Read Romans 7:7-25 (NLT)
Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.
But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.
So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.