Romans 7 (Mike and Jordan)
Oct. 29, 2013
Teachers: Mike and Jordan!
Romans 8:28 — And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
When we try to deal with issues on our own, we get a big mess. For example, Mike explains how he tried to fix his own ingrown toenail. But that didn’t work–he made it a LOT worse. Romans 7 talks a lot about how we can’t rely on ourselves as Christians.
Last time, we went over Romans 6, and verse 14 is beautiful: Sin no longer has master over us. We have a new identity and sin can’t even touch us now–we have victory over it.
Yet we still sin. We keep failing, wanting to do things on our own. We’re raised, thinking we must perform, we must do well. Like with school, work or dating, we try to put in some effort. But when we accept Christ, it seems like God’s trying to tell us that we can’t rule our own lives. We struggle. Why do we struggle? Is it that we are not trying hard enough to be good? We keep sinning and falling short, messing up again and again!
Maybe it takes reading the Bible more–or praying more! But the problem is, even with that, we still fall short. Romans 7 tells us that you can’t fix yourself to be right with God even after salvation.
Romans 7:1 — “ Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?”
The law only has authority over us if we’re alive, but not if we are dead. So if we don’t have a good grip on what the law means, then we have a warped view on what God wants for us.
Romans 7:5-6 — For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in [c]the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the [d]Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
This passage might seem strange: It sounds like we need to be released from the law. One might think we are supposed to “follow” the law or the commandments. Many churches even emphasize “being good” and “following the law.” But Paul tells us to be delivered from it!
So is the law bad?
Romans 7:7 — What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except [e]through the Law; for I would not have known about [f]coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not [g]covet.”
No. The law is not bad. The law shows us what sin is, defining it for us. Paul wouldn’t have known lust was wrong had there been no law!
In Matthew 5, Jesus says if you lust in your heart, you already committed adultery! So even thinking “lustful thoughts” is just as bad as doing what you are thinking, which is why we need the law. It reminds us that we are sinful.
Humans like to break laws. Think about it: If someone tells you not to touch a large, blinking button, that would make you want to touch it more. It’s tempting. And eventually, you probably give in and press the button, out of curiosity and rebellion.
Romans 7:8 — But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me [h]coveting of every kind; for apart [i]from the Law sin is dead.
So this verse shows us that the law agitates our sinful nature: It causes us to rebel. It’s fun to break the rules, so our response? We want to be good–we desire to be good–but something in us pushes us to do the opposite. So it turns to a “performance” issue. We say, “Oh, I’ll be good today, but I can be bad tomorrow.” God gave us the law, though, and shows us we have a problem. It’s like an X-ray–it shows us that we have a problem. The X-ray doesn’t fix the problem, but it simply shows us, “Dude, you need help.” And THEN you go to the doctor to get your issues fixed. We’re helpless just following the X-ray, or the law and relying on it to fix us.
God, however, can fix us.
The role of the law is to show us we can’t do it–we’re broken. And the law points to a hero.
Galatians 3:24-25– Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a [ai]tutor.
It pushes us toward Christ. You need Jesus!
Galatians 2:19-20 — For through [r]the Law I died to [s]the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [t]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
It is no longer I who live, but Christ in me. The law shows us we can’t do it–we can’t work our way to being good. So God’s gonna break us from time to time. And in Romans 7, Paul explains his inner struggle with this, too.
Romans 7:9-11 — I was once alive apart [j]from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was [k]to result in life, proved [l]to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Paul is saying he “became alive” as a Christian, but still had a sin nature. There is still a problem. Paul explains the law is good and whole, but Paul’s problem is like ours: We try to fix ourselves and make ourselves do better.
Romans 7:13 — Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
The common response for us is to blame the law on our sin, but Paul says not to blame the law. Think about it this way: Say it’s your 21st birthday and you go out with a bunch of friends for a drink. You do this a couple weeks in a row because you are of age, but then, after a while, you get a beer gut. You can try to blame the beer you are drinking for giving you the beer gut, but the beer isn’t the problem: It’s you. You’re the one who has been drinking too much. So same goes for the law: Don’t blame the law for your sin; blame yourself.
This passage shows us we have a problem and are sinful. Sure, you have bad habits, cravings and a lifestyle you can’t shake off that might get in the way of everything. You know what you do is wrong and you want to do good, but you’re stuck and you hit a wall. You might want to be good, and some churches say to do that, but God has another way.
If the law is the way, then why do I feel so empty when I try to be good before God? Prior to accepting Christ, one might feel this way. There’s something missing. It’s not about being good: God is really good. He is no police. God just wants to provide for us and heal us, much like a loving doctor. He is like a husband to a church; a healer to the sick; living water to those who are thirsty; bread to the hungry. God isn’t telling us what to do; he’s giving himself. And he says we cannot meet the law’s standards.
Romans 3:10 — No one righteous, not even one.
So when is it we hit rock bottom and realize we are stuck? God wants to help us out there, and heal us.
James 4:8 — Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
When you are at your lowest, God is at his strongest, and he will fix you.
So think about Walter White in Breaking Bad. He starts a meth lab because he wants to help his family. However he fails time and time again. His problem? He tries to do everything on his own! He’s struggling there, though. Paul in Romans 7 tries something similar–he tries to be really good, but he’s failing.
Romans 7:14-16 — For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold [m]into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
There is a huge internal struggle Paul is going through: He wants to do good, but does the thing he hates!
Romans 7:17-19 — 7 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Paul tries to do good, but does opposite. You might think you’re usually a “pretty good” person. You can make yourself do good things. You might tell yourself, “Oh, I won’t be competitive at that football game. You’re gonna be humble. Great.” But when you get to the game, you are competitive, angry and yelling. You failed to meet those standards you set for yourself.
Romans 7:23-24 — but I see a different law in [p]the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner [q]of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from [r]the body of this death?
Paul calls himself a wretched man! He was probably one of the most humble men in the Bible! So he’s also dealing with this problem, and runs into the same issue as us. He realizes he tries to do things all on his own. Think: When you are a kid, you want to do big kid things. Like mowing the lawn. Maybe you try to do it when you are too young, but when you try to start that lawn mower, it doesn’t work. It’s a struggle! And your dad is just watching you fumbling, knowing you would fail. God is like that with us, watching and is like, “I’m here if you want help.”
How can we apply this to our everyday life? We’re left with two choices: We can live life under the law, which we talked about–we can fumble and try to make up our own rules and regulations to make life work. Or we can live under grace–God’s way. People will react under the law or under grace.
View of Self or Me Under Law
I’m a Christian–I’m good! I’m totally dead to sin. I can keep all my commandments–I don’t sin. Ten commandments, psh. I got that. I love God every day of my life. I don’t kill, I don’t steal. The law makes me close to God–I keep it. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t cuss. Not many people are better than me.
^ This is how person under law views self.
View of Self or Me Under Grace
I’m a Christian–I have forgiveness. I’m dead to sin, but I can’t keep the law. I’m screwed up and cannot follow all the laws of the old testament. There is no way. I have a relationship with Christ and H.S. is inside me. I still have sin nature, but by relying on Holy Spirit and God, I can experience real change.
^ This means you are pursuing God. It’s a life under grace.
The key to spiritual growth: Where are you taking your Christian life? Are you sitting still or are you actually moving. If you have a law mentality, you might try to “quit” things in your life that are “sin” issues. And you try really hard to not sin. Or if people turn to “special experiences” like casting “smoking demons” out (which is usually phony). You cannot cure your sin issue! Plus smoking is not a sin, which some Christians argue. But people fall into that kind of thing. You think you come to a priest and you are cured. It makes you feel good for a minute.
Under grace, it is totally different: There is a humble aspect to it where you realize you cannot keep trying hard. Your self effort is futile and never works. Verse 18 says there is no good in us! We cannot be good–there’s not a day you wake up and don’t sin. You never wake up and think, “Oh yeah! I want to go out and love so and so!” No. The second you think that, you are probably already being judgmental. We have to admit, we are pretty wretched. But contrary to zapping sin away, with God, it’s a process. It’s a relationship–an ongoing love trust relationship with Jesus.
Think about it as if you told your girlfriend, “You need to do all these things on my list or I’ll break up with you.” The relationship would NEVER work! You would break up or the girlfriend might fail. That’s not how God is–so trying hard to make the relationship work doesn’t make sense.
Some people minimalize their sins, thinking “I’m not too bad.” But other people will say, “I’m the worst of the worst. I suck. Ugh. Nothing good will come from me, God.” Or you can do this, which is, “God. I promise I’ll never do that again. Pinky promise.” But the latter is probably the worst!
Under grace, it’s totally different. You aren’t surprised by failure: You might not have talked to God, read the Bible in a while. So it makes sense you are struggling. But that also leads you to confidence in God’s acceptance. Sure you messed up, but you know God still loves you and doesn’t view you any different.
Under the law, you might become proud or intolerant. You think, “Ugh. How is my friend still messing up? He’s been struggling with alcoholism for months. He needs to get a grip!” That’s super judgmental and a prideful attitude. Under grace, it’s not you making success, but it’s God. That’s why Paul says, “wretched man that I am.” And growing close to God means you realize more about your sin, and see the need for continued growth and a need to pursue God and understand what grace means for your life. Maybe you are sitting, thinking, “I’m a new believer. I have eternal life.” Are you going to pursue it longer or do you want to throw it away? Will you entrust your whole life to Christ? If you don’t do that, you’re sitting like a rocket on your ground that’s got a little spark, but then it goes out. It’s been thrown away.
So the end result? What happens if you live life under the law or under grace? Under the law, you will be “conformed” — people will look at you thinking you are perfect, but on the inside, there’s increasing hypocrisy and wickedness. There is deep rooted sin issues that nobody even knows about. Under grace, it’s beautiful because there is a gradual transformation to being a person with a changed heart. A love for God.
If you are not a Christian and think this doesn’t relate to you, it can apply to you. You can make a decision tonight: Are you going to pursue the world, or will you admit you
cannot live life on your own and that you do need God’s help. And God is ok with that. He doesn’t want you to jump through hoops to meet him–that’s under the law–all he wants from you is for you to admit that you can’t do things on your own and that you need him. That you are wretched. He wants honesty and a relationship with you so that you can have significance and eternal life–that’s probably the most important thing! None of us deserve eternal life, but we all need it. Christ did it for us. All you have to do is ask for Christ’s death to count for your life and sins. We can’t come to him based on what we do, but
Romans 7:25–Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Christ did it all for us. All we have to do is humble ourselves.
Romans 8:1 — There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
You are clean when you come to Him. And if you haven’t done that, yet, this can be the night for you to do that.