Romans – “Therefore”
Let’s be honest. We can look at a shiny object and think it is pretty and walk away. As soon as someone tells us we cannot have it, we WANT it…badly. We can pass by a new vehicle with admiration but as soon as we hear our best friend has purchased it, our gut tells we NEED to have it, too. Our neighbor cuts his lawn on a sunny afternoon and suddenly, to keep up, we feel the need to cut our lawn, too. (True story.) We begin serving from a desire to please God in our churches until we see others doing what we think is more important or better, and we say yes to everything wanting to please others around us. Serving then becomes a sport within the Body with wrong motivations.
There is never a more honest statement in the Bible than the truth Paul delivers about himself. “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience? Yes. I’m full of myself–after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”
We ALL obviously need help. GOOD NEWS! Help came. There is an answer to our sin condition and our misguided motivations about following God’s law. Jesus Christ!
Romans 7 and the beginning of 8, The Message
Torn Between One Way and Another
7 1-3 You shouldn’t have any trouble understanding this, friends, for you know all the ins and outs of the law—how it works and how its power touches only the living. For instance, a wife is legally tied to her husband while he lives, but if he dies, she’s free. If she lives with another man while her husband is living, she’s obviously an adulteress. But if he dies, she is quite free to marry another man in good conscience, with no one’s disapproval.
4-6 So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.
7 But I can hear you say, “If the law code was as bad as all that, it’s no better than sin itself.” That’s certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, “You shall not covet,” I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it.
8-12 Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.
13 I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Romans 8, The Message
The Solution Is Life on God’s Terms
1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
Think About It…
–Many times, over the years, young believers who repent, get up from the altar and say, “I will be good from now on.” I remind them quickly, “No, you can’t by yourself. But with the new power of Jesus Christ working in you, He will help you, like He helps all of us, make better choices. Tap into the power of His Holy Spirit and listen.”
–There is a “new power in operation”. Listen for Him. He will guide you into all things good for He wants the best for His children who believe, love with a desire to please Him alone.
–We can not do this on our own. I’ve tried. Paul tried.
–God’s Law kept us moral and safe. Jesus gave us relationship with the Almighty!
We obviously need help and help was sent. Trust and obey.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Paul, with Your help, delivers the basic honesty of our human condition. Thank you for explaining the intent of Your Law and the beautiful relationship with You that is possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus, Your Son. I tap into Your power in operation daily, almost hourly. I experience Your greater outcomes with renewed joy. I don’t want to serve as a competition but with a heart of pure joy, a desire to give back what you so lovingly sacrificed to give to me, the power of Your Help. Thank you for Your power that pulls us, like a magnet, from the influence of sin in all forms to Your best for us. Bless us and continue to help us to be all you intended for us to be. Then guide us to what YOU want us to do in Your Name, for Your glory.
In Jesus Name, Amen