God gave Randy and I quite a few opportunities to direct church camps back in our younger adult ministry years. Our goal was always to teach kids more than “come and be saved”, but to go beyond that concept to living the life Jesus taught us. We felt we were doing them a disservice if we didn’t. We were seeing so many kids stream to the altar, over and over again, after a powerful message and then testify, “Now I will be good.” Each year. Same kids. No sooner were the words out of their mouths than evil displayed its power of sin over the ones who declared themselves sin free. Proclaiming “I will be good from now on” became their first mistake in their new life with Jesus. With their declaration, pride and boastfulness seeped in like a lion on the prowl, as they misunderstood immediately WHO is should be now in control of their lives.
Dear Friends, we cannot, no matter how much we declare it, be “good” on our own. We need the power of Jesus in us, the power of God’s Holy Spirit helping us, in the choices we will make. Life offers a million choices each day. Jesus is not a twelve-step program, Jesus is the life-giver, sustainer, forgiver, redeemer and THE answer to all of life’s choices. Ask for His wisdom and He promises to give it!
Read as Paul, who knows he cannot be good on his own, explains…
ROMANS—OUR CARE AND CALLING
Romans 7, The Message
Torn Between One Way and Another
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.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
We cannot be good on our own. We need help.
Jesus died to free us and rose again to save us from ourselves and the power sin has over us.
Jesus sets things right with God on our behalf no matter who we are, where we’ve been or what we have done. Go to Jesus, ask for His forgiveness. Then invite the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. He will. Then we must focus our hearts, minds and souls to follow the promptings of God’s Spirit who has our best interests at heart. If and when we get too busy to hear, wander out from under His protection and power, run back to God. Like the earthly father wanting for His prodigal son to return, as soon as we take the first step, Jesus runs to us with His forgiveness and powerful help. The power of God has, is and always will be more powerful than the evil who opposes God. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:16. God know you. God knows what you are facing today. God knows the choices before you. Remember, try to wrap your mind around this truth: God knew you before you were formed in the womb of your mother. He knows the “walls” we face each day and gave us the supreme answer to all of life’s questions.
Our names are now firmly written on the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. Jesus knew us and knows us. He thought of us while on the cross dying for our sins. Our sin held him there until it was finished.
Consider this: Who do you think loves you more and wants to help you be like Him? Pray and meditate. Take all the time you need. I am and I will, all day long.
You died and rose again to set our lives right with God. God, you had a plan from the beginning to save us and then teach us your best way to walk, talk and live, explaining the full intention for The Law. Your Plan’s root is based on your love for us. I cannot thank you enough for all you have done, are doing and continue to do in my life. I cannot be good on my own. I gave up that notion long ago and now lean on you for wisdom, insight and understanding because of your great, loving, redeeming act of saving my soul. Help me to hear you with focus to follow you without hesitation all day long today and every day of my life here while waiting to be with you there. Thank you for being with us now.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen