The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Through our union with Christ in his death we are delivered from the dominion of sin. But we still find sin struggling to gain mastery over us, as Paul depicted so vividly, “When I Want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21). We may not like the fact that we have this lifelong struggle with sin, but the more we realize and accept it, the better equipped we will be able to deal with it. The more we discover about the strength of indwelling sin, the less we feel its effects. To the extent that we discover this law of sin within ourselves, we will abhor and fight against it.
But though believers still have this indwelling propensity to sin, the Holy Spirit maintains within us a prevailing desire for holiness (1 John 3:9). The believer struggles with the sin God enables him to see in himself. This is the picture we see in Romans 7:21, and it distinguishes believers from unbelievers who lie serenely content in their darkness.
Interpretations of Romans 7:14-25 fall into three basic groups. It is not the purpose of this book to discuss those interpretations or to decide in favor of one of them. Whatever our interpretation of Romans 7, all Christians acknowledge the universal application of Paul’s statement “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me”. As indicated in the previous chapter, indwelling sin remains in us even though it has been dethroned. And through it has been overthrown and weakened, its nature has not changed. Sin is still hostile to God and cannot submit to His law (Rm 8:7). Thus we have an implacable enemy of righteousness right in our own hearts. What diligence and watchfulness is required of us when this enemy in our souls is ready to oppose every effort to do good?
If we are to wage a successful war against this enemy within, it is important that we know something of its nature and tactics. Fir of all, the Scripture indicates that the seat of indwelling sin is the heart, “for from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual desires, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean” (Luke 6:45; See also Gen 6:5 and Mark 7:21-23).
The word heart in Scripture is used in various ways. Sometimes it means our reason or understanding, sometimes our affections and emotions, and sometimes our will. Generally it denotes the whole soul of man and all its faculties, not individually, but as they all work together in doing good or evil. The mind as it reasons, discerns, and judges; the emotions at they like or dislike. The conscience as it determines and warns; and the will as it chooses or refuses are all together called the heart