Recommendation: re-read Romans 7-8 out loud.
What I’m suggesting is not a replacement for studying the Scriptures, nor for any other method of reading, but an alternative I’m suggesting can bear fruit from time to time.
On this occasion, read not with an eye to understanding what on earth Paul is trying to say in Ch 7, but with an eye to what happens to Paul as he contemplates God in the process of explaining to the believers in Rome.
By the time Paul gets to the end of Ch 8 he is enraptured by the character of God: caught up in delight at the recognition of the profundity of Who God is and what He does.
By the time he gets to 8:31 the quill of his amanuensis has begun to sing, the scratches on parchment become rhythmic, and in my mind’s eye, by the end of the chapter Paul is standing, arms trembling, voice crescendoing, and then he collapses to his knees as his spirit and the Spirit commune in adoration, before he has calmed and can resume penning what would become known as chapter 9.
All true theology is doxological.
When unchallenged and unconfronted by people who know us, one inevitably becomes uncorrected and imbalanced, and lacunae develop in one’s introspection. One’s mind becomes pre-programmed to avoid these mostly unexamined and consequently sensitive areas, and it permits oneself to sally forward “assured” of our own righteousness.
Why “sensitive”? Because to examine these lacunae forces one to acknowledge a tension between the comfort our introspection has provided and the reality of our own need for repentance and forgiveness: for reformation.
As humans we seek to live a managed life, but God seems to insist that we live a formational life, and He will orchestrate circumstances to ensure that no blind spot remains unchallenged. The solution is not to exert greater control, but to confess, repent, receive forgiveness, and embrace new learning with humility and gratitude.
“What the heart desires, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.”
The secret to avoiding this (practically speaking) is a commitment to community: to knowing and being known. This is a determined investment in the process of becoming vulnerable to being known well and the responsibility of knowing others well. The personal character quality required is humility.