The Self Life


“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

This despondent cry follows Paul’s disturbing monologue on the inner strife between his two natures (Romans 7:13-24). Here the apostle describes the conflict that goes on in the life of every Christian, until the self-life is completely subjugated and the will of Christ reigns supreme. The ascendancy of self is indicated in these verses by the fact that the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” “my” are used no less than 35 times in verses 15-24 alone as Paul records his inner thoughts and feelings (e.g., “that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I”—v. 15). Such a testimony is pervaded with introspection, relating everything to self instead of to Christ. No wonder the conclusion is so miserable: “O wretched man that I am!”

Unfortunately, this is the status of most Christians whose interests are almost completely self-centered. Most Christian books and sermons are designed to appeal to such personal interests, and the explosive modern growth of Christian professional “counseling” likewise reflects the existence of multitudes of self-centered Christians.

But the happy and useful Christian is the one whose concerns and activities center around others and who earnestly seeks to follow and honor Christ and His Word. And this is exactly the conclusion to which the apostle Paul comes in his melancholy soliloquy. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” he cries. Immediately the answer comes: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

We do still have to battle the old nature, but in Christ we have both the incentive and power to “put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9) and to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). HMM