Romans 7:7-24 December 2009
LIVING WITH GOD’S MORAL LAW
Remember last week we saw that in the eyes of God’s moral law we believers are dead, because Jesus served our death sentence and paid the penalty for us. We are free from the unrealistic demands and the condemnation of the law.
Although the law is still there, it will never ever condemn us or penalise us again, because Jesus took that condemnation and paid that penalty for us with His life. And we believers will never face the punishment for breaking the law because Jesus took that punishment for us.
In this passage Paul talks about the effect God’s law had on us before we came to Jesus and the effect it has on us now that we belong to Jesus.
The past relationship and the present relationship.
THE PAST RELATIONSHIP 7-13
When you read this passage it can sound quite complicated and so to help you understand what Paul is talking about here I want tell you a story.
There was a wealthy widower who employed a housekeeper to clean the house, cook and do the washing etc. She started working for him and thought she was doing okay until one day he gave her a list of instructions specifically telling her what she should be doing.
When she read the list of instructions she got really discouraged and angry. She realised that she wasn’t doing such a good job after all. The list pointed out all the things she was doing wrong and she got her hackles up. There were jobs on the list she didn’t want to do and there were other jobs she wasn’t allowed to do and she reacted to this. She thought “Blow you, I’m not going to do those things I’m expected to do and I am going to do those things I’m told not to do.”
The job list was fine, but she resented being told what to do and what not to do. The list stirred up the rebellious, independent pride in the housekeeper and brought the worst out in her. She refused to co-operate.
Here in verses 7-13 Paul says this is the affect God’s moral law had on us before we came to Jesus.
We thought we were doing okay before we read the list of God’s moral instructions. In fact most of us in our culture believe we were doing okay until we read the 10 commandments that talk about lying, jealousy, greed, adultery, honouring God and your parents and when we read that hating a person is the same as murder and lust is the same as adultery and avoiding the truth is the same as lying etc.
Suddenly we discovered everything we were doing wrong. God’s moral laws showed us the behaviour God expected of us and showed us all the things we were doing wrong.
How did that affect us? Like the housekeeper, we resented being told what to do and what not to do. The list stirred up the rebellious, independent pride in us and brought the worst out in us. We didn’t want to do what God told us to do and we wanted to do what God told us not to do.
There was nothing wrong with God’s moral laws, in fact those laws were meant to be the foundation for a morally and socially healthy society, they were given for our good, our protection. There is nothing wrong with God’s moral laws, the fault was with me.
God’s moral laws pointed out to me what was morally right and wrong, they highlighted my faults and failures and when I reacted they showed me that my heart was rebellious, defiant and disobedient.
God gave us His moral laws so that we would carry them out in our daily lives and live, but because we continually broke God’s moral laws, instead of giving us life they condemned us to death.
God’s moral laws are perfectly good; they tell us how to relate to God and to others in a loving way. But when we are confronted with them we react negatively. There is a rebellious, independent pride in all of us that resents being told what to do. God’s moral laws expose the selfishness, the greed, the defiance, rebellion, the resentment, the lust in our hearts.
The Bible calls it sin and it has tainted the whole human race and is responsible for all the evil, the crime, the conflict, the suffering in our world today.
Before we came to Jesus God’s moral law shoed us the behaviour God expected from us, it showed us where we were going wrong, it provoked a negative reaction in us and showed us how rebellious, proud and sinful we really are.
THE PRESENT RELATIONSHIP v14-25
Let’s go back to the story of the housekeeper. As she continued to work for the widower she grew to love him and he her and soon they got married.
Now the relationship changed. She was no longer his employee, she was his wife, but he still wanted her to do the house work while he went to his place of employment each day.
The first thing that changed was her attitude. Instead of feeling rebellious and resentful about the jobs that needed to be done, she was happy to do them because she loved her husband and wanted to please him more than anything else.
But now there was a new struggle going on inside her. She wanted to be a good wife and housekeeper and she wanted to do a good job, but she still kept making mistakes and failing. Why because she was aweak frail human being.
Before this she didn’t really care if she got it right and she resented being told what to do, now she really and truly wanted to get it right and she so wanted to please the man she loved, but she didn’t always get it right and felt so disappointed with herself.
She would go to her husband and say, “I’m really sorry, I burnt the dinner or I didn’t get around to making your lunch, please forgive me.” And he would just take her in his arms and say, “Of course I forgive you. I would never condemn you for failing and you mustn’t beat yourself up because you get it wrong. I know that you want to please me.”
This describes our present situation as believers. Before we came to Jesus, God’s moral laws demanded that we live up to God’s righteous standards, but we rebelled against God laws and resented being told what to do.
Now that we have become followers of Jesus, God’s moral laws haven’t changed, but something inside of us has. Instead of feeling resentful and rebellious we truly want to please the One who loves us and gave His life for us – want to do the right thing, we want obey God’s moral laws, but we don’t always get it right and when we fail we feel stink. We feel so disappointed with ourselves.
Paul put it like this – this is a paraphrase of v15-23
I just don’t understand myself, I really want to do the right thing but often I end up doing the wrong thing. In fact I often do the very thing I hate doing. When this happens it shows that I believe God’s moral laws are right and true. So although my heart’s desire is to please God there is still something in me that makes me do wrong. It is the old weak, sinful urges that are attached to this dying body that make me do the very thing things I don’t want to do. I love God’s moral law with all my heart. 23 But there is another evil force within me that fights against what God wants and there are many times it gets the upper hand.
The problem is this: When I came to Jesus His Spirit entered my spirit and changed me on the inside. My heart was changed as Ezekiel and Jeremiah predicted. I found that I loved God and wanted more than anything to please Him and do His will, but there is a part of me that hasn’t been changed and I look at that part every morning in the mirror.
It’s my body. I am a new creation in my spirit, but my body is still part of the old creation. I am reminded of that more and more as I get older.
My Spirit is one with Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:17 tells us that. I am spiritually alive and growing and being renewed daily in my spirit, but my body is still part of this sinful, aging, dying world. That is why Paul said in 2 Cor 4:16 “though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” On the inside I am alive and growing, on the outside I am degenerating and dying.
The very last part of a believer to be changed and
transformed into Christ’s likeness is our bodies and that
will take place when Jesus returns. We read more about that in the next chapter.
And because these bodies of ours are tied to the old life we lived under the power of sin, because they are still part of this old corrupted sinful world, they hinder us from being the morally sinless, godly people we really want to be. Those sinful urges in these fallen, earthy bodies trip us up time and time again.
That is why cried out Paul cried out in v27, “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
I just want to say something that I hope will encourage you this morning. If you feel really stink when you do wrong, if it really upsets you when you let God down, if you feel truly disappointed in yourself when you fail.
You are in good company – Paul felt exactly the same.
It’s a sure indication that you are a follower of Jesus. Christians make miserable sinners.
If you do wrong and fail morally and it doesn’t bother you, then I would seriously doubt if you are a true believer at all.
So as believers we have these two conflicting urges within us – the strong God given desire in our spirit to please God and these weak sinful urges in our body dragging us in the opposite direction.
There are two questions:
Will we always have this struggle going on within us?
Yes we will.
A young student wrote a letter to Bishop Fulton Sheen who was a dear godly Christian man and he said, “When will I stop battling with lust in my life.” Bishop Sheen wrote back and said, “Don’t ask me, I’m only 80.”
The battle will go on until these weak, sin-prone bodies are finally set free from the influence of evil and transformed into glorious bodies like Jesus has.
Can we believers know growing victory over these weak sinful urges in our bodies while living here on earth? Yes we can and that is why Paul answers His question, “Who will deliver me from this dying, sin-prone body?” Thank God the answer is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Through trusting in Jesus, looking to Jesus, relying on His power we can know a growing moment by moment, day by day victory over the weak and sinful urges in these bodies.
And of course we will know complete and ultimate deliverance when Jesus shall change these mortal bodies into glorious sinless eternal bodies like his own.
So Paul finishes this passage by saying, “When I follow
the God given desires of my heart I do what pleases God, but when I give into the weak sinful urges of my body I end up doing the opposite.” Therefore I need to live close to God, constantly relying on Him for the power to do what in my heart of hearts I really want to do – which is to please Him.
And next week we will look at how that works out in practice.