Verse 18 says that there isn't anything good in us, that is, in our flesh. We may want to do good, but we don't have the ability to do it. This is a huge indictment against "working harder" theology. We too often assume that because we desire to do good that we just need to try harder and we will do the good we want. But we can't.
Then Paul writes his famous "I-keep-doing-what-I-don't-want-to-do" passage, which is the comforting part for me. I mean, hey, if Paul continued to have such an ongoing struggle with sin, I don't feel so "odd" for having my own struggle! But then he says something weird, something that didn't fit with my former theology of "new creation."
v. 24a - "Wretched man that I am!"
Shouldn't that read, "Wretched man that I was?" My former understanding of us being a "new creation" in Christ was that we should no longer see ourselves in language like this. But Paul seems to have no problem with such brutal honesty. He sees his sinfulness that is present in him -- even now. How, then, can he have hope in his battle with sin?
v. 24b-25a - "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Who do we look to in our current sinful state; in our ongoing, daily battle with indwelling sin? We look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, the One whose sinless sacrifice offers us a permanent place in the family of God. By His grace, we are His; messy, broken, wretched. But we are still His!
Maybe walking with God isn't so much about defeating sin as it is about humility, honesty and highlighting our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.