Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last week I preached on Romans 6, that through Christ's sacrifice you are no longer slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness. Today in Romans 7 we hear that we are captive to the law of sin that dwells in our members, and that in our flesh we are sold into slavery to sin. Paul is telling us how life as a Christian looks. We are both saint and sinner.
In our inmost selves we delight in the law of God but in our flesh we stumble and struggle to do good, through our baptisms we received a new nature, but the old nature is constantly at war with this new holy self.
Last week, while I was visiting my girlfriend Rosa, I spent a bit of time carting rocks and filling in potholes. I would wake up earlier than Rosa, take a wheelbarrow and find large rocks on the side of the road, then cart then home and dump them in a pile. Then I selected the rocks and placed them where I thought they should go, before smashing them into smaller pieces with a sledgehammer so that they would fill the potholes properly. I told Rosa's mum with a smile that I was doing slave labor; carting rocks and breaking them. But while doing this labor, not for myself but for others I was filled with happiness and joy, it was great I was a slave to righteousness. The Holy Spirit was flowing through me and God was doing a good work through me, the New Self, the Holy self was shining through.
But other times I am much more like Paul shares in our passage.
. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
I know that God's word is good, I know that reading my bible will strengthen me against the attacks of the evil one, and help me to be a more loving, kind and generous person. But a lot of the time I struggle to keep his law. At times I see God giving me a way out, but in my sin I do not take it. I know I should read my bible, but I turn to a weaker form, I read commentaries instead of the real thing, or I read another book entirely. We know that God's word gives peace, yes it challenges and condemns sin, but ultimately it gives peace, and yet all too often we found ourselves searching for hope and happiness in something else.
16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
There is a prayer that I have heard, it goes, " Dear Lord, So far I've done all right.
I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed.
And from then on, I'm going to need a lot more help.
It's a prayer that humorously looks at our need for help from God. I've liked it previously but as I meditated on this text I started to dislike it. For your justification, for your salvation, it doesn't matter if you not greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or indulgent. It matters to your neighbor, yes and that is an extremely good reason to do good. but for your standing with God, what you do has no weight. You are judged entirely on what Christ did, on Christ's perfect life and perfect sacrifice.
We do not do the good things we want to do, instead we do the evil we do not want. Sometimes in our sin we even want to do the evil, we despair of God's wisdom and his commands.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
Everything good comes from God, but in our flesh we are corrupted, our very being, not just our thoughts and actions are sinful. But God cares, he cares so much that he sent his son, to cure us of our corruption.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Paul knew that according to his flesh he deserved death, and that he could not attain his own righteousness. But his next words are full of hope.
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Even though in our flesh we deserve death, both before and after receiving God's Holy Spirit. God did not see this as a failure in our Christian lives. Here on earth we must constantly repent of our sins and seek God's forgiveness and grace. But it's not so bad, despite our failures, God still loves us, and so do our friends and families, Yes our earthly love is a poor reflection of God's and we do not always love as God does, but the fact that we can love our neighbour and they can love us is a wondrous gift of God.
Every good thing comes from God, when I am still in bed not yet having done anything for the day, I am no less loved by God, or made righteous through Christ. Whether your day is full of grace and God's work, with a satisfaction in your spirit and aching in your body, or whether you stumble and commit sins which you do not want to do. Each day you live with Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour. Regardless of how you feel about it you are blessed and Chosen by God.
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
On earth you will always be the saint and the sinner. Strive to be the saint, but know that the sinner always lives in you seeking to turn you away from God and toward yourself. Struggle with it, but know with certainty that you are justified by Jesus, you are washed and cleansed, washed in the waters of baptism and cleansed by Christ's holy blood.We deserve death, but Christ took that punishment on our behalf, he has rescued us, rescued us from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.