18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
This part of the Bible really encouraged me; it is actually one of the scriptures that brought about my conversion at the age of 19. It is still as true today as it was back then, almost 30 years ago, only maybe somewhat worse, because I understand more now about what is right and wrong That makes me more accountable for doing what I know is right.
This also means that I am more aware of my screw-ups, and have more opportunities to experience what I consider to be failures, as well as the self-hatred that accompanies condemnation. That is why the following scriptures really comfort me when I mess up:
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Although God does not want us to sin, He knows we will, and He is prepared to respond to our sins with grace. Grace is God’s divine empowerment deposited and working in us to help us do what He asks of us. It is given to us solely out of God’s unmerited love and favor toward us. Simply put, He wants us to succeed, but knows we need His power to actually do it.
He also knows that our old, unhealthy and self-centered mental habits, as well as our lustful flesh, continually war against our spiritual desire to please Him. He doesn’t expect us to always get it right, but He does expect us to always try to get it right. That is why this next verse also makes me feel better:
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Condemnation doesn’t come from what I do through my actions or thoughts. It comes from not entrusting myself to Jesus. So if I have placed my faith in Jesus, there is no condemnation for my mess-ups – only grace to help me overcome the temptation to commit offenses in the future. His blood covers my past, present and future sins, so I have nothing holding me back from getting up and trying to live righteously with my next breath.
So that original verse about not being able to do what I know is right is not meant as a death sentence, but only as an acknowledgment to myself and God that I am dependent upon His mercy for the sins I have already committed, and His grace to avoid committing sins in the future. Either way, there is no condemnation for anything – I am free to live for Him the best that I can.