In this sermon, part of a series on the Book of Romans, our founding pastor, W. Graham Smith talks about the civil war inside each of us. Here are some excerpts:

The Civil War: Two Natures

In Romans 7 Paul explains that as a Christian you have two natures within you. There is a new nature. In Ephesians 4:24 Paul describes it as “the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” You were given this new nature when you became a Christian. And this new nature wants to do what’s right and to please God. But the Bible says that you also have an old nature, the nature you had before you became a Christian. And it didn’t die when you became a believer. You still have it, which means that you have two natures in your life.

The Old Nature

Look at Galatians 5:16 which tells us that there is a conflict between these two natures: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit…”  Now what can we say about the old nature? Two things:

  • It always wants to sin; it never wants to do right.
  • Your old nature will never change. As long as you live on this earth, you’re going to have some of those old desires.

And so you have to learn — how do I win the civil war in my life?…

A Lesson We All Have to Learn

…Let me read something to you from a fine little book on Romans entitled How to be a Christian Without Being Religious, by Fritz Ridenour. He says,

“What’s your problem — temper, impatience, self-control, being honest, your thought life, pride, laziness, self-centeredness? Everyone has skeletons in his closet; and they don’t always stay in the closet. You blow up in front of your family or a lot of people, and you’re real embarrassed. You want to choose obedience, but you choose sin.

Sometimes you’d almost swear you were a split personality. Paul admits that he had to fight this war too. We all experience the frustration of knowing what is right and failing to do it. This isn’t supposed to be the Christian’s experience, but Romans 7 draws an accurate picture of the vicious circle we all get into.

So we may as well be honest. This new life in Christ is no snap. We came to Christ as sinners. We are saved by God’s amazing grace. We’re forgiven and justified before God. But we’re still sinners after we believe. The inescapable fact is that by ourselves we cannot do the right things. Knowing the rules, “golden” or otherwise, doesn’t make us able to obey. We just keep on falling into the same old trap called sin because we choose to.

The old nature is still in every Christian and trying to keep the new nature from taking over; and there’s no peaceful co-existence. The Christian is a walking civil war. Paul has the answer to winning this war: ‘First you have to understand who’s fighting it; and then you have to have the right strategy.'”

And thank God, we will discover what that is in Romans 8!


Graham has a lot more to say about this topic. If you would like to learn more, please download and read the attached transcript of the sermon, as the above excerpts do not even scratch the surface. If you would like to do a word search on the transcript, download the file, and then open the file with your web browser after downloading and use your browser’s find feature.


May 5, 1996

Romans 7:14-25

Rev. W. Graham Smith

Download Transcript (PDF)