I am reading a book called The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church by Andrew Farley, and it has been amazing (I first got it free as an ebook and have now ordered it as a real book). I love any books that remind me of the exchanged life message, that remind me that my life is hidden in Christ, that remind me that I am not identified by my failures or successes but in Christ alone, and this one does it very well.
One thing that really stood out to me afresh was his development of Romans 7:14-20, in which Paul says that there is a foreign agent/power at work in me (and you) called sin, which is waging war against the life of Christ in us. This is different from a sin act or sinful things that we have done. And so Paul says, "Now if I do what I don't want to do, it is no longer I who do it, bt it is sin living in me that does it." Sin is in me, but it is not me. And so when thoughts and feelings come to mind that are contrary to the Lord's will, I usually feel like I have completely blown it, that I am destined to always fail and let the Lord down. The reason I feel this is that the thoughts and feelings sound and feel like me. For example, today during church I was thinking on the goodness of God's grace, the refreshment of the Gospel, and then out of nowhere came fearful thoughts about the guy from last Wed night, and then the shame of not trusting God as my refuge. I didn't want to have those thoughts. They just came, but they sounded like me - that was sin at work in me, trying to distract me from dependence on God and His love.
But Scripture is clear that I have died with Christ, and that I have been recreated with His life and His Spirit. And so I agree with Paul in Romans 7:20 that when I don't do the good that I want to do, it is not I but sin at work in me. And it is freeing to know that in my heart of hearts, in my truest place, I do not desire sin. My spirit agrees with Christ and loves all that is holy, right, and good. Because the temptations of sin sound and feel like they come from me, it sometimes feels like saying no to sin is saying no to myself. But as the author says, "As God's workmanship, our regenerated selves are not the problem. Sin is the problem, and our calling as new creations in Christ is to say no to sin and to say yes to who we really are."
So do I still sin? Of course. But I am realizing that the temptations and thoughts do not have to hold sway. They do not have to be obeyed or bowed down to. Instead, I can call them out for the lies that they are, no matter how real they feel, and I am free to live in my standing as a holy and righteous son of God, not based on my own works but on the life of Christ given to me.