Under the Cross: Secret Battles and Inner Peace

By Harrison Goodman

Romans 6. Shall we sin that grace may abound? By no means. We're baptized. Dead to sin. Alive in Christ. It should be simple. It isn't. Here's baptized me: still lusting after evil and feeling even worse for it, now that I know just how terrible it is.

This is where Old Adam looks for excuses. What if it makes me happy? Does that even apply today? Is it really a sin if. . .But faith does not ask "How can I take God’s word less seriously?" It can't. That's the wrong question to ask. I love the Word. Even the Law. I just can't stand to see how the Law makes me look.

It feels gross. Nobody else looks like I feel. They look pious. Righteous. Good. I want to feel that way, too. I just can't seem to quit sinning.

Romans 6. We are dead to sin, but only a chapter later Paul's already losing his mind over it. Romans 7: "Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me."

I think he made it that confusing on purpose. Paul. The apostle who wrote the "love is patient, love is kind" chapter that's so beautiful everyone wants it at their wedding. The poet. The scholar. The rhetorician. The Spirit put words on paper through him that shame Shakespeare and JK Rowling alike. Still, here's Paul jabbering like a schizophrenic scribbling on the walls with a crayon. I love it.

This is who we are. Simul justus et peccator. Simultaneously just and sinner. Not sometimes one and sometimes the other. Both. Always. 100% saint. 100% sinner. And it's confusing. And it's war. And it's the life of the Christian. We're all fighting secret battles no matter how we look on the outside.

This is where the devil lies to you: "Take the word less seriously, then you won't feel so bad." Just like he whispered to Eve, he asks us, "Did God really say that's not allowed?" The devil loves it when we measure peace by a feeling of calm.

The truth is, if the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are constantly assaulting us, the more at peace with yourself that you feel in the middle of it, the closer you are to destruction. If you die outside in a blizzard overnight and notice that you don't feel so cold anymore, it's not a good sign. That's nerve death. You're dying. That's bad. When you don't feel at war with sin anymore and feel kind of warm inside, you're either dying or dead. Christianity is war. War isn't calm. Want peace? Stop measuring your faith by your secret battles. Measure it by Christ's public one.

That's what crayon-on-the-wall Paul does. Throws up his hands to all of it. "Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." He is our peace. Peace is not found in prying yourself farther from God's Word to avoid guilt, but in getting closer to God's Word to cleanse it. Don't measure your faith in your works. Measure it in Christ's. Sin is dead. Jesus is risen. And you are baptized into Jesus.

That's what freedom really looks like. It's war. That struggle is a good sign. Fight. We might feel like we're losing the battle daily but Christ has already won the war. No more excuses. No more lies. We call good "good" and evil "evil" because we're united to His victory. We don't need to lie our way into feeling better.

Are you baptized? Good. You're saved. Still feel at war? Go to confession. Hear your pastor speak these words: "In the stead and by the command of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

You don't even have to wait until Sunday to do it. Call him. Text him. God doesn't forgive sins once a week. He gives you a pastor to give you that true peace whenever you need it.

Faith in Jesus goes to Jesus. Simple stuff really. God makes it look and sound like something so that when we can't feel like it, we can still measure the victory. Baptism. Confession. Lord's Supper.

That's Romans 8. That "If God is for us, who can be against us" part. The "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" stuff. Still war, but a finished one. The victory stands on His resurrection and His promises specifically FOR when everything else is falling apart. We live all three of these chapters in Romans. Chapter 6: dead to sin, alive with Christ. Chapter 7: war. Chapter 8: victory where God is with us to strengthen and save. All of it is in Jesus. Inner peace comes from receiving Jesus from the outside through means. We find our peace in the Sacraments, which give Jesus to sinners losing secret battles.

Simultaneously saint and sinner. That's not license to sin. It's an identity that the war we lose each day can't sully. We are Christian. Holy--because Jesus makes us that way. Splash in it: baptized. Listen to it: absolved. Taste it: communed. Who will save us from this body of death? Jesus.

Rev. Harrison Goodman is the associate pastor at Mount Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas.
This article was originally published in the spring 2019 issue of Higher Things Magazine. 
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