There are two opposing forces within me, within us all. In an average day, I struggle with a variety of sins. Lust and pride, anger and envy. Most of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell. Some days are better than others. But there is a war that wages within me. I want to say that only a mere inkling of my sinful nature exists. That every day I manage to destroy a little bit of the evil that dwells within me and that every day it diminishes more and more. That I have, over time and with effort, made myself into a better person. I know of many people and have heard many stories about people who claim to have succeeded in this. I have believed in the past that it was possible. It is not.
When I think about the battle we have with our flesh and human nature, I think of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll is a respectable and decent doctor. Though he is a good man, he recognizes that there still exists a darker side within him. In an attempt to rid himself of this evil side, he creates a potion that will separate his good and evil selves from one another. What happens instead is that he temporarily transforms into his darker self, an alter ego named Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde is the epitome of evil and does immoral acts without remorse. Yet, Jekyll begins to delight in his transformation into Hyde. In the end, he attempts to rid himself of Hyde and fails, ultimately becoming completely overcome by his dark side.
Dr. Jekyll commits the very same mistake that most Christians and most people, in general, seem to make. We think that only a very small portion of sin exists within us and we have every capability of ridding ourselves of it. What Jekyll doesn’t realize is that his evil nature is a lot stronger and more prominent than he thinks. When he transforms into Hyde, his good nature begins to delight in the immoral freedom, shattering any implication that he had any good in him in the first place. His dark side was significantly stronger than his “decent” self and completely consumed him.
We are as foolish as Dr. Jekyll when we try to clean up our acts and do good deeds. We all have that all-consuming dark side within us. We can try all we want to mask, justify, or destroy it but it will not go away.
Paul talked a lot about this. In Romans 7:15-24 he says this:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Jekyll and Hyde is a depressing story. After Hyde completely takes over Jekyll he kills himself before he is convicted of the murder he committed. Paul suffers from the same idea Dr. Jekyll did but with a twist. Paul tells us that nothing good dwells within him. He does the very thing that he hates because of the sin that is within him but unlike Jekyll, he has another realization. It is all out of his control. He cannot rid himself of sin. He cannot be freed by his good deeds or cured with a potion. He must be delivered.
Paul continues on in Romans 8:1-4:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”
What we cannot do in ridding ourselves of sin and malice, Christ did on the cross and delivers us from our sinful self.