“Romans 7 is brutally realistic about the ongoing effects (and affects) of the fall. They are real but our sins do not define us. They mark us, they scar us, but those who are united to Christ through faith, by the Holy Spirit, who are adopted sons, by grace alone, through faith alone, are defined by those realities and truths not by their sins.”
(R. Scott Clark – Abounding Grace Radio) A complex question came over the electronic transom this morning. It has at least two parts: (1) Is persistent sin (e.g., sexual sin or desire) our identity, who we are; (2) Does the Lord want us to offer this sin to him? The question arises out of the recent Revoice conference and other sources, where it has apparently become fashionable (1) to identify one’s self by one’s persistent sins; (2) to offer that identity to the Lord as a sacrifice as though one is giving up something truly valuable in order to follow Christ.
First, Christians do struggle with persistent sins and a disordered, misdirected sexual desire (e.g., a same-sex desire or a sinful heterosexual desire) is among those sins with which Christians struggle. The traditional Reformed understanding of Romans 7 tells us that, in verses 14 and 15, the Apostle Paul was speaking about his Christian experience:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Rom 7:14–15; ESV).
It is in light of these verses and others like them that the Reformed churches confess, in Heidelberg Catechism 60, “I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil…”. There is much speculation about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor 12:7) but given his use of “flesh” as a figure for our sinful nature, we might just as well think of it as a sin. Nothing humiliates the Christian quite like sin.