I think it’s safe to say that the apostle Paul penned the cry of many mothers’ hearts when he wrote Romans, chapter 7. In fact, if Paul hadn’t written this chapter almost two thousand years ago, I’d think he snuck into my house and stole an excerpt from my journal.
Now, before we read this passage, let’s remember who Paul is. This is the apostle Paul—formerly Saul, a Jewish Pharisee who hated Christians and “persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13 ESV). But through his transforming experience with God on the Damascus road, he is now a devout follower of Christ, completely sold out for Jesus, “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23–24 ESV).
With this in mind, let’s read what the apostle Paul writes in Romans 7:
I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? (Romans 7:18–24 MSG)
Maybe you’ve also felt some—or all—of what Paul is confessing here.
- I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.
- It happens so regularly that it’s predictable.
- The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.
- I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight.
Maybe you have written something like this in your own journal, or if you’re really brave, you may have said something like it to a friend over coffee.
It’s important to recognize that Paul is not saying that we should just surrender to living in constant defeat of our sin. What he is doing is expressing his angst over his persistently sinful nature and his inability to live in complete victory over it. His words demonstrate how even Christians who love God and love His law and desire to be free from the sting of sin still can’t attain perfection in this life.
Well, we’d all be in big trouble if this were the end of Paul’s writing. But instead we find good news, the best news, in Paul’s response to his own question: “Is there no one who can do anything for me?” His answer is sweet music: The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:25 MSG)
Did you catch that, my fellow mom? “The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.” Jesus is the answer.
But there’s even more good news! As Paul writes in Corinthians:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
In other words, by Christ’s work alone, we are justified, redeemed, and we become new creations in Christ. (And still, that’s not the entirety of the blessings we receive in Christ!)
See, in Romans 7, Paul is painfully aware of who he is—in the flesh—in his persistently sinful nature. Yet, at the very same time, his assurance and his hope is in his identity in Christ, which is 100 percent righteous before God.
Likewise, we remain sinful in the Christian life as lived, but our identity in Christ is total righteousness. Our truest identity is “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is why Paul says, “It is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (Romans 7:17 NIV). See how he separates his identity as a new creation in Christ from the sin that resides within him?
It’s what Martin Luther famously called, “Simul iustus et peccator”—we are simultaneously justified and a sinner. It’s not either/or but both/and.
I’m not sure how I missed this intoxicating truth for most of my life. All I know is that I did. And the pressure to live in continual victory over sin – and be a perfect example for my kids to follow – was crushing me. Maybe you can relate?
See, we moms are really good at carrying guilt and shame over our faults and failures. We fear that we’re letting down our kids and disappointing God in and through our mothering struggles and shortcomings. We worry that we’re not enough.
Lean in, friend, if you resonate with these feelings. Because Jesus freed us from trying to prove that we are enough. He lived a sinless life, died a sinless death, conquered the grave, and has freely given us His perfect record (Romans 3:23–25 NIV). When we are in Christ, there is nothing to prove. Let that sink into your weary and worn-out soul.
In fact, if we could convince ourselves we are “good enough” we wouldn’t recognize our soul-deep need for a rescuer. If we thought we are loved and accepted by God apart from the work of Jesus, we wouldn’t see our need for Jesus. And we would never truly walk in the freedom of the Cross and grow in grace.
It’s only when we acknowledge who we really are apart from Christ—sinful, broken, prone to wander—that we will live in gratitude for who we are in Christ – beloved, chosen, and beautiful before our holy God.
In Christ, we are new creations, called not to perfection, but to the pursuit of Christ. Called to become who we already are in Him, by His grace that is at work within us, and by the power of His Spirit. In doing so, we are propelled to walk in the freedom for which Christ has set us free. And ….. we empowered to lead our children in doing the same!
Which area of life do you need to apply these truths to the most? Your career? Motherhood? Your marriage? Your walk with God? All of it?
We moms are told that we have to get it all right so our kids turn out right. We’re told that their entire futures are riding on our ability to perfectly orchestrate their lives. And we’re told that the strength of their faith hinges on ours. So we begin to believe that if we just try hard enough, we can actually “be enough.”
These impossible standards make us fear that we are not only letting down our kids but also disappointing God, and they leave us stuck in worry, anger, guilt, comparison, and shame.
In Mom Set Free, Jeannie invites us to journey alongside her as we learn to:
- Lay down what God has not asked us to carry so we can thrive in what He has.
- Embrace our significance in our children’s lives in light of God’s sovereignty.
- Trust God with the children He has entrusted to us.
- Receive God’s grace so we can reflect God’s heart to our kids.
Purchase your copy here on Amazon or wherever books are sold!
GREAT article. So freeing! I’m just learning to walk in this grace that I have heard so much about for years. I don’t think I have ever truly understood what it all meant for me. I love this paragraph: “It’s only when we acknowledge who we really are apart from Christ—sinful, broken, prone to wander—that we will live in gratitude for who we are in Christ – beloved, chosen, and beautiful before our holy God. In Christ, we are new creations, called not to perfection, but to the pursuit of Christ.” Beautiful! I need these truths in this post for most every area of my life, but I want to learn how to apply them to how I mother the three beautiful gemstones God has blessed me with (7, 9 & 12 years old). Blessings!
I need these truths in all areas of my life! Am especially challenged in a particular relationship. Preaching these truths to myself.
Such FREEDOM in these words of Paul’s! I find myself struggling to remember the both/and truth especially in ministry and motherhood. I am not defined by my limitations or how I fall short of even what I desire to be; I am solely defined by who I am in Him. Looks like a great book!
Emmeline!! You’re the randomly picked winner!! Send me your address and we’ll get a book out to you.
what a great reminder that when I feel like I have failed as a mom/wife I have Jesus and he is my rescuer. He gave me my children and knows that I am the best mom for them and with him I am enough
Great article and sound like a good book.thanks for giving us a chance to win.
“In Christ, we are new creations, called not to perfection, but to the pursuit of Christ. Called to become who we already are in Him, by His grace that is at work within us, and by the power of His Spirit. In doing so, we are propelled to walk in the freedom for which Christ has set us free.” “When we’re in Christ, there’s nothing to prove. Let THAT sink into your weary soul.” — @JeannieCunnion I need these truths in my walk with God, my marriage and ministry to other women. Thank you Katie and Jeannie for the opportunity to win a copy of Mom Set Free.
All Of It!When we are in Christ, there is nothing to prove. Let that sink into your weary and worn-out soul.
Wow. I’ve never thought of the both/and. That really is huge. I need these truths over it all. The struggle and guilt have been steadily growing lately. This came at the right time.
This is a great reminder of a truth I think I have not fully embraced, but I want to learn to! Especially now as I struggle with two grown sons who have wandered away from the faith, and it can be easy to let your failures eat at you instead of lifting your kids up to the One who is greater than our failures!
What a wonderful thought…..”When we are in Christ, there is nothing to prove.”
I have been struggling with life lately…in pretty much all areas, so much that I really don’t want to try any more. This has been really encouraging to me
I need to apply those truths to all areas but expecially Motherhood. This book is Mist have for me.
Sounds like such a good book for Mommas!!
I think remembering how God entrusted us with His precious gift of A child is a big thing cause often times I feel very inadequate as a mother and forget that I was chosen by Him for this role.
I so want to and am continually learning to see the my parenting role and it’s significance how God wants me to and through his grace.
I need to read this one. Thanks Love it!
Oh how I needed this today!! Thank you!
Such a beautiful reminder. As a single mom who is struggling to remember God’s grace is sufficient, this is a great reminder!
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