Sunday, September 18, 2016

I did not know what sin was...

Read Romans 7

It is good to be a disciple of the Lord.  It is good.

Paul has taken his readers on a journey to discipleship.  He began with knowing there is a God.  It was a simple thing.  “C’mon guys, look around you.  You know this didn’t ‘just happen’.”  There was and is a Creator God at work.  To deny this is to deny the intellect that your Creator placed in you.

Theological statement:  There is a God.  Duh!

The next part was a little tougher.  God had standards, and you didn’t hit the mark.  In fact, everyone missed the mark.  Some were given more instruction than others but nobody could hit the mark.  Everyone fell short.

On top of the fact that nobody had a passing grade, the learning curve was going the wrong way.  Nobody was catching on to doing things God’s way.  It was as if the entire creation was rebelling against God.

But while we were still rebelling against God and surely not doing things his way, God himself made a way for us to be right with him.  It cost him a lot.  God paid the price and made us right with him once again.

God did what we could not do on our own—put ourselves in good relationship with him, our Father, our Creator, our God.

Through Jesus, God did it all.  We are made right in God’s eyes and so it became time to live fully for God in response to his great love.

That brings us to chapter 7.  We have come here without words such as sin and transgression, atonement and grace, righteousness and salvation.  Some of you put those words in my rapid recap of the first six chapters.

We can let him get away with leaving out:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
What shall we say then, shall we go on sinning so that grace shall abound even more?

Paul brought his readers not only to salvation but to discipleship and chapter 7 puts us squarely in the middle of discipleship.  Isn’t it great to live in response to God’s unbelievable love?

You get up in the morning and you set your sights on living fully for God.  You can do this now.  We don’t have to worry about sin and death having a grip on us.  They don’t!  We are saved!

We get to live fully for God and everything just falls into place.  It falls perfectly into place.  We know exactly what we need to do and we do it and God is glorified.

And then the alarm goes off and we have to enter the world again.  It is like, “Wake up!  It is time to go back into the world.  You had better put on the full armor of God because it is a war zone out there!”

So we get our self-talk going: “My eyes are fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith.  I can do this!”

We are free from sin and death.  We don’t carry those burdens around with us anymore.  We can live for God.  We are free to be the people that God made us to be.  We can finally live a life that brings glory to God!

And then we go and do the exact opposite of what we set out to do.

We screamed at or digitally signaled the guy who cut us off in traffic.

We walked around all day with a long face.

We cussed out the dog again.

We made ourselves read the day’s devotion just so we could say that we did.

We lined out the words judge not lest you be judged from out Bibles because that was just too hard.

We put off working out for one more day.  That temple maintenance will wait another day.

We did eat our salad.  We put a pound and a half of bacon on it and didn’t eat that green leafy part but we ate our salad.

It seems that everything that I set out to do I did not do or messed it up so badly it would have been better if I hadn’t done it at all.

All of which brings us back to the law.  What?  The law—I thought that we were beyond the law?

Paul told his readers, I did not know what sin was before the law.  I did not know what it was to covet until the law said, Thou shalt not covet.

But we are not bound by the law!  How does this relate to us?  More than we may ever realize.  Remember that the law is 248 directions to “do this” and 365 regulations about not “doing that.”

“Do this.  Don’t do that and don’t do that either.”  I hadn’t even though about not doing that until the law said not to do it, then I wanted to do that very thing, and I did it or at least the thought of doing it continued to occupy my mind.

But now we are not bound by the law.  Christ has set us free from having the curse of sin which is death hanging over us as a consequence for our transgressions; yet, when we set out to follow Jesus free from the eternal consequences of sin, somehow we do exactly the opposite of what we set out to do.

This is not in everything that we do, but I suggest that it is universal among Christians. We set out to love one another and the next thing you know we are giving someone a piece of our mind instead of God’s love that resides in our heart.


Some would say that the Devil out there and he will get you.  Okay, he is out there but if I know it’s him, I have the name of Jesus on my side.  No weapon formed against me will prevail.  I can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and know that God is with me.

I get that!  I am ready for that.

Some would contend that maybe I forgot a piece of my armor.  Remember Paul’s instruction was to put on the full armor of God.  Maybe that’s it, but sometimes it seems that something is already at work when I am putting on my armor.

Paul told his readers and he is telling us that sin is still at work in the world.  It cannot change our destination.  We are God’ kids.  We are brothers and sisters to Christ Jesus.  

That’s forever.  By the blood of Jesus, he has claimed us and that’s forever but sin is still at work in the work and wants to wrestle with us.

The more that we set our sights on fixed objectives, the more leverage that sin finds.

Thou shall not covet—you name the person, place, or thing. 

These days we don’t covet our neighbor’s goat or ox or donkey very much but we do still covet, especially when reminded not to covet what our neighbor has.

Sin now knows where to wrestle with you and it will.

You have driven by your neighbor’s Ford F-350, 96” wide cut lawnmower two hundred times in the past year and thought to yourself, “Nice mower.  I’ll bet that cost him a pretty penny,” but you just kept on driving without giving it another thought.

But this time when you drive by, your wife remarks, “You are not getting one of those.  Don’t even think about it.”

Well, up to that point the thought of getting such a monstrosity for yourself had not really crossed your mind and if it had been a momentary thought, it vanished quickly as your returned to reality and drove down the road.  But now, oh but now, your mind holds on to that thought.  Why?

You were told that you can’t have one.

What happens now?  You start thinking about what your neighbor has and it would be nice to have one.  Maybe I don’t really need it but it would be nice.

Where there had been no thought before, now we ponder what might be.

I do work hard and need to take care of myself every now and then.  I think maybe I do need this lawnmower.

Now the fact that for the monthly payments that this thing is going to cost, I could hire every kid in town to cut my grass twice a day for the next thirty years gets pushed out of the operating parts of my mind.

I not only need that mower; I deserve it.  I wonder if they have a 104” model?

If it had been offered on Amazon 1-Click that baby would be here in 2 days.  The mortgage, gas and electric bills, and feeding the kids might have to be put on hold for a few years but I had to have that mower.  I gotta have it!

Man, I can see me now cranking that baby up and using it as a hovercraft.  There will be people on the other side of town thinking that a Huey helicopter is coming in at rooftop level.  There are probably a couple Vietnam vets out there who instinctively pop smoke in an open field.

Until your wife said, “Don’t even think about it,” you hadn’t given it much thought.  Now you must have it.

Were her words evil?  No.

Was the law evil?  No.

So what exactly is going on here?  What is this dynamic at work in me, in us?  Sin, seeing its chance, jumped in head first.

Here we are shoulder deep in discipleship and somehow we are still swimming in sin.  We are saved from sin and death and we are wrestling with sin?  Really?


It is still there.  It doesn’t go away.  Sometimes it messes with us and we don’t seem to come out on top.  Sometimes it seems that we do exactly the opposite of what we really want to do.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.  I sing it with all of my heart.  Though none go with me, I still will follow.  I believe this is exactly what I am called to do no matter the cost.  Lord, I will follow you.  You can count on me.

Then suddenly we are in company with Simon Peter as the cock crows and we cry and say “What did I do?  What did I do?”

What a piece of work have I become?  I know what Christ did for me; yet, I live doing things that do not bring glory to his name.  I do not want to do them.  I say that I won’t do them or that I will do something and then I do the exact opposite.

I am singing the world behind me and the cross before me but the next thing I know it seems like the cross is behind me and I am right in the middle of worldly things.

What a piece of garbage I am.  What a miserable, wretched person I am.

Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!  

Thanks be to God!

In the previous chapter, I asked those of you who wrote in your Bibles to draw a line between chapter 5 and chapter 6.  On the chapter 5 side, I asked you to write “Salvation” and on the chapter 6 side to write “Discipleship.”

Now, somewhere in the margins of chapter 7 write, “Salvation realized in Discipleship.”

Until the power that sin and death had over us was removed, we did not and perhaps could not realize how great the gift of life is.

We have been given life and life eternal.  Sin can no longer take that away from us so it targets our life abundant.  We no longer wrestle with sin so we don’t go to hell.  Our eternal destination is secured.  It is a done deal!

We wrestle with sin only because we long to bring glory to God.  We want to live God’s way and sin fights us and it fights like a terrorist.  It will not fight strength to strength.  Jesus wins.  He has won the victory.  Sin will not seek a rematch for it is defeated.

But it will try some cheap shots.  It cannot steal the promise of life eternal, but it will try to steal the abundance of life in the here and now.  Sin targets us where we are weak.  Where are we weak?

We are weak where we seek to comply with a rule or law or direction or directive for we were not created to be a compliant being but to exercise our free will and be an obedient son or daughter of God. 

What!  Are they not the same?

They are not!

Compliance is about following rules to avoid consequences or sanctions or punishment.  Punishment and fear are old buddies and we do not do fear.  God did not give us a spirt of fear!  Obedience is rooted in love.

When we shrink back from the fullness of life into a compliant mode, we give sin a chance to mess up our abundant life.  When we try to comply with good rules, we give sin a chance to mess with our minds.

Now rules are great things for our children, but we who have taken on the yoke of our Master learn from him and find that what he gives us is not a heavy burden.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

When we live in obedience to our Master, our Lord, our King then we find that we don’t give sin a foothold.  We are living fully and obediently for God.  We are fully trusting our God.  We know the rules and the rules can tell us how much we need God’s grace, but our response to his grace must not be just to be better rule followers.  We trust, obey, and love.

But when our life becomes governed by rules, count on doing some wrestling with sin.  It will take every opportunity to steal the abundance in abundant life.

Here is our challenge that comes from chapter 7:  Live in loving obedience to God not in compliance with his rules.  Seek his kingdom and his righteousness first instead of filling out a scorecard on yourself.  Trust in him over your own understanding and see if the wrestling matches don’t become less frequent or at least less intense.

There is another component to this discipleship that helps us fully realize our salvation that we will talk about more the next time.  It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the next chapter contains.  We have talked about God the Father and Jesus the Son, so get ready to bring God’s Spirit into our walk of discipleship as we continue farther into Paul’s letter to the Romans.

For now, when sin turns us upside down and we do exactly what we didn’t want to do, pause and consider how great a gift that we have received in the blood of Jesus, confess to God, and then get back in your walk of discipleship, your race of faith, get back up and press on towards the goal!

When sin tangles you up in a big mess, stop right where you are and thank God for his grace that you now know all the more, confess to him, and get back in your race of faith.

Sin is still at work in the world and sometimes it will trip you up.  You don’t want it to.  You didn’t go looking for it.  You set out to do all the right things.

Do not be discouraged but give thanks to God for how great his grace is.  Cry out to the Lord, “I am a mess.  Thanks be to God for his grace that goes so far beyond my mess!”

It is good, very good, to be a disciple of the Lord.


No comments:

Post a Comment