the letter iconSo today we are going to really have a big, big challenge.  Up until this point we have been walking through a chunk of a chapter of this letter, but not today.  Today we are going to try and tackle Romans chapter 7…all of it!  So there is a lot to do, but I do want to say on the front end, that if there is one particular chapter of Romans that every person can identify with it is chapter 7, and I’m very excited to really focus in on where Paul heads towards the end of this chapter today but before we jump into this today, I think it’s very important for us to look back at where we have been.

We have been watching Paul unpack something over these first 6 chapters of this letter that is a really big deal, and I think if we had to sum it all up for you it would be found here…

Romans 3:22 We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. 23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. NLT

We have learned a lot so far about grace but we have also learned that we humans are sinful.  All of us, even those of us who teach and preach.  Even the people sitting around you that appear perfect to you.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…all of us.  We also see how we are made right in God’s sight.  We are made right in God’s sight through Jesus.  God sent His son Jesus to do for you and I what we could not do.  He took away our sins, and now even though none of us is perfect God looks on us and see’s Jesus living in us.  That is the incredible good news of the Gospel.

So for 6 chapters we have seen Paul go there.  Over and over he talks of how Jesus saves us.  God set things right through Jesus.  God did for us what we could not do on our own!  This is very good news for us sinners…which Paul reminds us is every one of us!  As Paul says in his letter to the church of Corinth,

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  NIV

This is the main focal point of what Paul is trying to unpack for the Roman church, and all of us!  You could not and cannot save you!  God through His son Jesus did it for you!  So this is the foundation that Paul has built in this letter and everything builds off of that.  One of the main things he keeps hammering on is the law, you know the rules and regulations.  He works very hard to help us understand something that we still struggle with today.  That is the law…and the fact that the law cannot save you!  We can’t make sense of it, and what to do with it…remember how we talked last week of the extremes we push into?  Paul wants the focus on Jesus, that is the foundation and the focus of our lives.  When the foundation is right he can build from there.

You see back then the church was really pushing the rules and regulations on people and it was leading to devastating results.  Amazingly enough even with this letter in our Bible for us to study it still is leading to devastating results today.  When the law is the focus and not Jesus a couple things happen…

  • People try to earn something they just can’t earn…which is exhausting and frustrating.
  • People were also being crushed under the weight of the law…because they just couldn’t add up to it.

So Paul spends a lot of time trying to get us to see that the law can’t save us.  You can’t earn something that God has freely given you.  Jesus does these things for us, he must be the center of our lives.  Which is why you have heard us talk of the shift in focus so much in the past few weeks.

If you remember what I spoke to you about last week I tried to really expose the extremes that we push into.  We talked about how we box and label people and churches…and how we can end up landing in some pretty extreme “camps” inside the community we call church.  I broke it down this way…we have The Rules and Regulations Camp, and we have the Grace Camp…or the no rules camp.  I think this was so important, Paul does an amazing job of clearly talking to us about what we people do with the law, and what we do with grace.  It’s so clear that you would think that we wouldn’t see the issues that Paul is addressing in the Roman Church today, yet they are here, people are hurt by them daily…and in some ways they run more rampant than ever before.  It is such a huge set up and leaves many of us staggering and wounded in many ways.

  • We have people crushed under the law, they feel weighed and measured and realize that they come up short.
  • We have people who get super Christian busy trying to earn their way into heaven.
  • We also have people who would abuse God’s grace because they don’t grasp God’s grace.

So we enter now into Romans 7, and as I like to say this letter just keeps on building on itself.  Last week we talked about this idea that we don’t hit the extremes, that we engage a life leading towards holiness.  We talked about how the commands of God (the rules) are important.  We are to obey God’s commands and look at where Paul heads now in Romans 7…

Romans 7:4 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. (MSG)

Wait, what did he just say?  Let’s read it in another version because in Chapter 6 he tells me to obey the law, and now he is saying Jesus took that way of life into the tomb and left it there?

Romans 7:4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.  NIV

So what is happening here?  Is he completely contradicting what he wrote in Chapter 6?  No he isn’t, what Paul is saying here is that we must center ourselves fully on God.  Law keeping won’t get it done!  We must die to the idea of earning God’s love.  We must die to the focus being on what we do and make it about what He does if we want to produce the fruit of a life in Christ.

Romans 7:6 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. MSG

Can you imagine being the Roman Church reading this letter?  They have been told their whole lives that the law is everything, obey God’s commands…and now this dude Paul is telling them of this incredible message of grace?  How do you think this was received?  Then Paul gets into two questions, because remember Paul understands that we people take things to extremes.  We like to box them up and label them and understand them.  So he answers the questions he knows will be coming…

Romans 7:7 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 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, 9 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. 10 The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. 11 So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. 12 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.  (MSG)

Do you see the questions that come out here?  The first is found in verse 7:

If the law code is as bad as you say is the law sin?  The answer from Paul is very clear…No!  The law is put in place to help us identify what sin is!  Remember we spoke about this last week, God loves us enough to give us guidelines in this dangerous world.  The problem is what we do with it!  (This could be the whole sermon today but we need to keep going)  Sin twists it up.

The second questions is found in verse 13:

Does that mean we can’t trust the law?  No, we absolutely can trust the law of God, the issue isn’t the law it is what sin does with it.  Are you seeing this?  It’s not the law it is what we do with it!  Again sin twists it all up on us!  Do you see the pattern forming here?

The whole concept for six and a half chapters of Romans is this, we must make the shift from what we do to what God does.  We must make Jesus the foundation of our lives not us and what we do!  We must make the shift…which leads me to a passage of scripture that each and every one of us can identify with more than any other maybe in our Bible.  This is the struggle that we all face, and it is so huge that Paul breaks this down for us…

Romans 7:14 The law is good, then. The trouble is not with the law but with me, because I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master. 15 I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 16 I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 But I can’t help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. 18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. 21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?   25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  NLT

I don’t know about you, but I really identify with what Paul is writing here.  Some may look at this and be depressed or overwhelmed thinking good grief if the apostle Paul can’t live a good life I am in big trouble here…but not me.  I take a lot of encouragement from this, and I believe that you should too.  This speaks the truth about us as Christians.  This is the battle, there is a struggle for each and every one of us to do what is right verse the pull of sin.  Now I know it isn’t something we would ever want to talk about at church, or in any public setting really but this is a big, big deal.  In these 11 verses I see Paul screaming out to us saying something we must see today!

I THE AMAZING APOSTLE PAUL TRIED IT MY WAY AND IT DOES NOT WORK.  Do you see it?  I want to do what is right…I love God’s law, me…I…me…my.  Look at who he is talking here.  Paul is saying that doing this in my own strength will just not work.  We fail on our own.  What is funny is how hard we kick and scream against letting God do anything in our lives.  We want to run the show.  We want control of our lives and we live in a world that just continues to heap more and more on us and I think we can put our heads down, and go to work on things and forget that we can go to Jesus for help!  Paul is trying to say hey, I tried it my way, and I failed and continue to fail on my own!

This is the struggle.  There are two natures inside each of us and they both want to run the show in our lives, Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Galatians…

Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. NIV

Here’s what is really interesting, asking Jesus into your life doesn’t take one of these natures away.  There is a struggle in every one of us over which nature will run the show.  The sinful nature is there, and the Spirit of God is there inside you and it is the struggle that we all experience.  They both want control of your life, and frankly the one you feed is the one that will dominate your life.  We all fight this fight.

Have you ever found yourself wondering why in the world you just said or did something you just said or did?  Did you ever walk away from a situation wondering why you did something so stupid?  Look at verse 15 again…

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. NIV

This is the struggle.  Now this doesn’t mean you have free license to sin.  Don’t take me back to the extremes, what it does mean is that we all struggle in a battle between these two natures.  Part of us wants to please God and part of us wants to please our fleshly desires (our sin nature).  This can be frustrating at times can’t it?  Paul is trying to help us see the war that wages inside each and every one of us.  Just because you have been saved does not mean that you will not struggle.  It doesn’t mean that you will be safe from the pull of sin!  There is no amazing level of holiness on this side of heaven that will give you immunity from temptation and the tug of sin in your life.  There is no title inside the church, no amount of good deeds to perform, and no specific amount of bible reading or prayer that will keep you from this struggle.  There are two natures at war inside all of us our sin nature, and the spirit of God inside us.  So I want to ask you something…

Is it hopeless then, do I just give up because of this struggle inside me? No!  It is not hopeless. No we do not give up and no, we do not just sin because we have this nature.  Look at verses 24 and 25…

Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!  NIV

So what is Paul saying here?  This is so huge.  He is saying hey this is life.  You will win some and you will lose some.  You will get knocked down and you will get back up.  Paul has already shown us the importance of perseverance, and how it builds character, and character, hope.  We will get back up each time we get knocked down because we know that we are fighting a defeated opponent.  We know that in the end Jesus has already won this war for us all…so with God’s help we fight from the stance of victory.  We won’t see it fully until we stand face to face with Jesus, but Paul is showing us how to walk victorious in this broken world.

When I read verses 24 and 25 I believe Paul is showing us how to do just that.  He is modeling for us some very important things that may seem subtle to you but need pointed out and applied to our own lives…Here’s the 3 ways we can walk in victory in this struggle against our sin nature just as Paul did…

  1. He is Transparent-not afraid to call himself a wretched man…he knows he sins, and isn’t afraid to be open and transparent.  Sin festers and grows in the lies and secrets.  We know none of us are perfect so why act like it?
  2. He is humble-What do we see the amazing apostle Paul saying in verse 24- I NEED HELP!  Pride is an amazing way to blindly get beat down in sin by your enemy.
  3. He is fully dependent on Jesus-He is saying here…I can’t do this on my own…thank God he gave me Jesus.  I need Him in my life!  Without Jesus in my life I fail.

It is funny how many people can walk through life and feel like a bad person because they have sin tugging at them…pulling them away from God.  It does not make you a bad person…it makes you a person.  What is interesting to me is that God allows this struggle between these two natures.  Did you ever think about that?  He could just make this easy on us right?  I mean he is God!  But instead He allows the struggle to take place.  Why would He do this?  Is it because He doesn’t love us and enjoys watching us struggle.  No, that isn’t it at all.  It’s because in the struggle we learn just how much we need Him in our lives, and that is the ultimate lesson isn’t it?

Paul wants us to see, hey we all struggle and in our own strength, left to our own devices we can’t get this done…but with Jesus running the show, we can walk in victory even in the midst of the struggle.