We're at the chapters around and including Romans 7 in our Bible reading and I had such a rush describing to the children and Billy about the day I had my eureka on that chapter.
Chapter 7 is the one where Paul laments his unredeemed state by describing how he is sold under sin and can't do the good things he wants to do, but rather does the very things he doesn't want to do. Only, it is written in the present tense, which would suggest to the ignorant that he was in that state while he was writing it.
At the time, I wasn't really aware of the literary technique of "flashback" or "literary/historical present tense," but I was surely a victim of it (or should I say beneficiary). Actually, I was familiar with it in secular writing, but it never occurred to me that that's what was happening in Romans chapter 7. I'd read it hundreds of times, at a minimum, and each time I would nod and agree with Paul and groan about my ever-present sin nature that prevented me from being able to completely obey the Lord. I wasn't in gross sin at that time, but nevertheless I knew I wasn't completely minding the Lord. And before I was enlightened, the Lord had me well convinced that I was indeed still a miserable sinner, i.e., "O wretched man that I am!" This literary technique is used to help the reader closely identify with the writing in a "you are there" sort of way.
That's right where the Lord wanted me so he could show me that I was still sold under sin, not yet converted into a NEW creation where "old things pass away and all things become new." It was same ol' same ol' even though I had prayed "the sinner's prayer" and had been baptized. I wasn't yet able to "go and sin no more" like he commanded. I knew I wasn't walking "even as Christ walked." Oh, I knew all the commands to holiness, and I also knew it didn't say try to be holy, it said "be ye holy." I didn't understand that in order to be holy without trying took resurrection power, even though the Bible repeatedly tells us that our righteousness doesn't count for diddly.
By and by I grew to love the Lord so much that forgiveness for sins just wasn't enough for me, and I would pour out my frustration to the Lord that I didn't want to sin against him, ever. I got so sick of sinning, that the day came when I told him that if living in this body of death with a sin nature was all I had to look forward to in this life, then I would rather he take me out, because I surely knew I would be free from sinning against him in heaven. EUREKA! That was the day I chose the Lord over my own life and died to sin. That was the day the Lord opened my eyes to many scriptures that I was incapable of understanding before. It was the perfect storm of scriptures, life situations, and my despair about my Adamic nature that brought me to the new birth.
As most literature students are aware, context is important, but with the Bible, I somehow managed to pluck Romans chapter 7 out from being sandwiched between chapters 6 and 8 which describe our victory over sinning. At the time, I didn't realize that living like chapter 7 put me in contradiction to chapters 6&8. Chapter 7 is the life of the hypocrite, not a child of God. Paul plainly states in the beginning of Romans 8 verse 1 "There is therefore NOW no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (emphasis mine)
Paul clearly shows the difference between then (unredeemed) and NOW (born-again). I say clearly, but truth is, it is only clear to those who really want to see it. It wasn't until I wanted to mind the Lord more than I wanted my next breath that I could understand those verses that seemed to contradict the possibility of walking in newness of life.
I knew that each time I sinned against God, I may as well have bowed down before Satan, his great enemy, and kissed his feet. Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? I got to where I couldn't bear the slightest sin. I would go watery inside in guilt and shame, and each day brought deeper self-hatred. Yes, self-hatred is necessary for the new birth.
For me, 1 John especially kept me tripped up until I was brought to the new birth. 1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" seemed to contradict I John 3:9 "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." But once again, I read 1 John 1:8 as a verse unto itself without reading it in the context of chapter 1, much less the whole book. 1 John 1:8 is addressing all those who deny we are born with a sin nature. Many preach that we are born without a sin nature. The very next verse (9) states that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." In just another two verses John goes on in chapter 2 to explain "1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:" Notice it says if any man sin. He's talking about the natural man, not saints, the sanctified, those redeemed by God.
Oh, how the Lord opened my eyes and made simple the many things that had confounded me for years. It was like a light switch had been turned on that day.
And yet even as I write this I know that the only ones who will really understand it are like the scribe in Mark 12:
28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
32And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
33And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.