Editors Note: I am having issues with my phone this afternoon. I have the sermon recorded, but due to technical difficulties, (i.e. children throwing phones on hard surfaces) I am not able to get the sermon from the phone to anywhere. If this gets resolves, I will upload the sermon and edit this post. Thank you for your understanding.
New edit: After all this time, my phone was fixed and I was able to the sermon audio off the phone and onto the computer. Here it goes!
The Struggle is Real
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and open them to Romans chapter 7. If you do not have a Bible with you there should be one under your seat or a seat nearby. If you do not own a Bible, we have a pile of black Bibles on the back table that we would be honored to have be our gift to you.
Now, if you are anything like me, Paul is an interesting writes. He has times of forceful, upfront bluntness. There is no mistaking, no misunderstanding, no confusing what he is saying. We saw many of those moments in the first few chapters of Romans. Other times, he waxes poetic, talking theology and philosophy and different things that can be hard to understand. For me, at times, trying to follow one of his sentences can give me a head ache at times.
I think we have a combination of those two things here this morning. Paul is clear about what he is saying in general, but to try and follow along his sentences, and it can get kind of confusing. But his overall point is clear and one that, I believe that hits each of us right in the gut. Then again, maybe your all just better Christians than I.
But before we jump into the text, lets put the passage in its proper context. Sin is bad. Sin is breaking Gods laws. We have all broken Gods laws. We have all sinned. Therefore, none of us deserve or have or can earn our way into eternal life with God. No so called good works we do can have any affect or our eternal standing before God. We stand before guilty. And God is a just God, so guilt must be dealt with. But God is also a God of Grace and mercy, so gives a gift of grace. By Grace alone have we been saved. Because God said so. And the vehicle he uses to deliver that grace is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.
By Grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. The law has no effect on our salvation. Instead, if you have been saved, you were created to do good works that God had plans for you since before the beginning of the world. Jesus says if you love me, keep my commandments. SO, we have an obligation to live out the commands, the law of God.
And yet, we dont have the ability, especially on our own to fulfill the law. Thats why Jesus came, to fulfill the Law as he says in Matthew 5. He had the righteousness required to satisfy a Holy God. On the cross, that righteousness was imputed on to the aforementioned those who have received grace by faith. Now, our legal standing has changed from guilty, for All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, to now, God looks at us and as we stand before him, covered in Christs righteousness, he declares us innocent.
And that, my friends is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It is the point of our transformation and our regeneration. It is the point where the Holy Spirit comes in and turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. And thats when we are freed from the bondage of sin and the weight of the law. Thats when we are free to live our lives the way that God intended and Christ allowed and the holy Spirit intended.
Thats the beginning of our journey. The hardest work, the work of salvation is done, and by no effort of ours. But there is hard work ahead of us. Living the life that Christ has freed us to live. To follow him and his commandments. And its both as easy as that and as hard as that. But before we get into that, lets go ahead and read our passage this morning, as Paul shows us from his personal example that we continue to struggle with our sin nature, even after we have been freed from its bondage.
So Im going to read Romans chapter 7, verses 13 through the end of the chapter, verse 25. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version. Romans 7:13-25.
Paul, starting by talking about the law, writes:
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
So remember the context of Romans 7. The law is designed by God and it is good. It is there to be a mirror and reflect our inability to keep it. It is there to diagnose the disease of sin and point to the cure. The one who is able to keep the law, Jesus Christ. Paul has shared that we know about our sin because of the law. He has shown that we are inventors of evil. And that we actually look to the law, at times to find different ways to sin.
So, the law, which is good, must be bad, right? The law, which is good, must be the source of our sin and our death, right? No! The law is good. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy that the law is good, IF It is Used lawfully.
Death came from sin. Sin entered the world through Adam. Sin is so corrupting, so all encompassing that it corrupts even the good things of this world. Sin corrupts so completely that even the law, which is holy and divine and given to us by God, to show how all things are supposed to work together, even the law is corrupted and we use it for evil.
Remember the other thing the law is for, when there is no sin, or after we have been freed from the bondage of sin and we have been freed from the bondage of the law, that the law is there to guide us, to show us how God designed all things to work. The law is there tho show that God is not a God of chaos, or disorder, or everyone do what is right in their own minds. God is a God of order, of rhythm. He is a God who knows everything and is in all time. Tim Keller says, “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”
So we know that if we live by and follow God in the way that he wants us to, things just work better. Now, dont worry, Im not going all prosperity gospel on you. Im not telling you that if you believe and pray that you will get your best life now or that God wants every one of us rich and in big houses, driving Ferrari’s. Because here is the thing. Its not just about us. We are not the only sinners in the world. The rhythm of this world that was broken when Adam brought sin into the world affect every person. And so, even if we were able to live by the law completely, others still dont and so there is still sin and brokeness in our lives and around us. But Gods laws, his rules, his Grand Design is there for a reason and it is for our best interest that we live according to them.
Heres the problem. We cant. I mentioned a second ago, the all consuming corrupting power of sin. We see that in our flesh still today. Before we are justified, before the Holy Spirit changes us, we do not have the ability to not sin. We are, as Paul mentions in Romans 1, inventors of evil. Monergism.com, a website with many commentaries and what not, summed his up better than I can when they wrote:
It is self-evident that if humanity, as a unit, decided to obey all of God’s laws then almost all social ills would disappear overnight: Greed and hunger, sexual perversion and related disease, adultery, rape, covetousness and theft, murder, racism and all forms of malice etc. These would be replaced with love, unselfishness and honoring the image of God in every person. The problem is, however, that obeying God’s law is wholly UNNATURAL to us. Our nature is repulsed at living this way even though we know with certainty that it would help resolve almost all social ills entirely. Being unnatural means not only are we unable to live according to God’s laws but also that we do not WANT to live according to His laws. This fact demonstrates that the solution to man’s ills are not to be found in himself or better education. In fact, history demonstrates that the better educated just seem to find more crafty ways of doing evil. No the “natural solution” to man’s ills is proven to be bankrupt and our only hope is a supernatural one, outside of ourselves. This testifies to the validity of the Bible as the solution to our ills because it so understands human nature as it really is and points to our only solution: Jesus Christ.
What was unnatural to us before, our desire and ability to follow Gods laws, now start to fade away. We are in the process of being changed from being of the flesh to being of the spirit. The change and the process has started, but in our daily, practical, physical lives, it is nowhere near complete. Our sin nature, our flesh is still in us, still working to fight against us, still corrupting us to sin.
But, if we are justified and regenerated, we will no longer have a taste for those sins. We wont want to do them any more. We will have a desire to Gods Will whatever it is. We will have a longing to follow him. We will hate our sins and work to eliminate them. This wont all happen at once, mind you. Somethings the scriptures are clear on. Dont do them. This is obvious. And when we are saved and we read our Bibles, we will see this and we need to stop.
One easy example. Say you arent a Christian, and you are living with and sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Then you become a Christian. Maybe you already know that the Bible says not to have sex outside of marriage. Then you need to stop. If you dont know the Bible says that when you become a Christian, very shortly afterwards, through reading your Bible, and listening to biblical teaching and through disciplship and all that, you will quickly learn that and then you need to stop.
You may still want to, but more than the desires of the flesh, as we grow in our walk and relationship with Jesus Christ, our desires for the spiritual, namely Gods law, which it says here is spiritual, will be stronger and more in the forefront.
But there are also things that the Bible is less overtly clear and specific. When I became a Christian, I was a smoker. And that was not something that changed immediately. I quickly became a volunteer with the youth group at my church and about a year into to that journey, I had a dream. Now, I very rarely remember my dreams, so the fact that I did this time is significant in its own right. But I had a dream that I came out of a store and one of the kids in my youth group was off to the side smoking. That image hit me like a punch in the gut and thats when I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me of my smoking and I knew it was time to stop.
That didnt mean that I was able to put them down and stop immediately. It was a process. Many stops and starts. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I was not always able to do it. And As I had a cigarettes after that, I hated it even as I was smoking it. As Paul says, the things I do not want to do, I do. Things I do want to do, I do not do.
CS Lewis: THe natural life knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self centeredness and self will are going to be killed and its ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.
Sin has corrupted our flesh so much that, until we are glorified into our heavenly, eternal bodies, we will not fully be able to resist sin and its temptations. Again, it does not come naturally to obey and desire Gods Will. Dieterich Bonhoeffer says, You can only learn what obedience is by obeying.
Now, it can be real easy to look at this passage, it can be easy to see that we will continue to struggle with sin and say, well, that means I dont have to try, because I wont succeed any way. No! It can be easy to look at this and say The Law brings death, or the Devil made me do it, or anything else that we can in order to shirk our own responsibility.
We have been trying to pass the buck, to shirk our responsibility and blame anyone and everything else for our sins since the fall in Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they now knew that they had done wrong. When God comes looking for them and talks to Adam, asking him what he had done, what is Adams response? Essentially, “It wasnt me, it was the woman that YOU gave me!”
Right there Adam shifts the blame off of himself and onto both Eve and God. But God makes it clear that we are responsible for our actions and that there is no one to blame but ourselves. We cant blame God, we cant blame the devil, we cant blame our friends, family and spouse, we cant blame Adam or Eve, we cant blame Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, this president or the last one. We cant blame anyone for our actions but us.
Now, Paul has already established, some may say, hammered home the point that we are all sinners and cannot contribute anything towards our salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But one of the things that he is establishing here and we will look at more in depth in a number of weeks, is that we do not have the ability to keep our salvation once we have been given it by God.
There are some that teach that we are saved by grace along with works, or saved by grace and kept by works. Both of these are fundamentally and biblically wrong. We are saved by grace and kept by the power, love and strength of God.
WE progress and sin lessens in our lives as we walk and grow with Christ, but it doesnt entirely leave until we stand before God in glory.
Remember what Justification is. It is God declaring us as innocent. Not us actually being innocent, but God declaring us innocent. It means that we now have a right legal standing before God. Our slate has been wiped clean and God sees us covered in Christs righteousness. But, if that was just to bring us current, if that is just to wipe clean our previous sins and not to wipe out all of our sins, then we still would not have salvation. Instead, minutes, moments, seconds, after that moment in time, we would already have sinned and been guilty before God.
Instead God saves us, and doesnt just bring us up to current, but wipes the slate clean for the past, the present and the future. God holds us and nothing can snatch is from his hands. God is the most powerful being in the universe. If he has hold if us, than there is not a thing in the verse that can undo what God has done.
So we cannot keep ourselves saved because of this eternal struggle between the flesh and the spirit. We trust, not in our own desires, our own feelings, our own abilities. We trust in God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate. We trust in God the Holy Spirit, who changes us from the inside, working on conforming us to the image of God. We trust in the bible, Gods revelation, his Word to us and what it tells us in regards to salvation, the revelation of God and who he is and what a Godly life and a God pleasing life looks like. We trust the Bible to show us, not only the law, but also, what the purpose of the law is.
John Piper writes about this:
This was the aim of the Law: that we might come to see the glory of Jesus Christ the Lord as the foundation and the focus of our justification and sanctification. And not only the foundation – providing a perfect righteousness and sacrifice – and not only the focus – providing an all-satisfying object of faith – but also the veil-lifting means of seeing and savoring himself – this is “from the Lord, the Spirit.” Seeing the Lord is from the Lord.
This is the aim of the Law and this is the aim and essence of the gospel and this is the aim of Education for Exultation: generations of children and youth and adults who study the Word not for its own sake, and not as the primary and decisive means of bearing fruit for God, but as a reflection of a living person, Jesus Christ, whom to know – not just know about, but know – is life eternal.
Paul, writes about this struggle and then cries out, Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? On our own, we are wretches. On our own we have this body of death. On our own, we are and have nothing. But Amazing grace! How sweet that sound! That saved a wretch like me.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
If there is one thing to take away from Romans chapter 7, from all of Romans for that matter, its the first part of verse 25, Thanks be to God through jesus Christ our LORD. Its all about and from him, nothing about ourselves. I once was lost, but now Im found. Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…
then when we’ve first begun.