British writer Evelyn Waugh wielded his words in a way that accentuated his character flaws. Eventually the novelist converted to Christianity, yet he still struggled. One day a woman asked him, “Mr. Waugh, how can you behave as you do and still call yourself a Christian?” He replied, “Madam, I may be as bad as you say. But believe me, were it not for my religion, I would scarcely be a human being.”
Waugh was waging the internal battle the apostle Paul describes: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Rom. 7:18 nlt). He also says, “The trouble is not with the law . . . [It] is with me, for I am all too human” (v. 14 nlt). He further explains, “In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me . . . . Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (vv. 22–24). And then the exultant answer: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).
When we come in faith to Christ, admitting our wrongdoing and need of a Savior, we immediately become a new creation. But our spiritual formation remains a lifelong journey. As John the disciple observed: “Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But . . . when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).