Main Idea: Even as we continue to prove our sinfulness, God saves us from ourselves so that He will get all the praise.
In 1934, Walt Disney wanted to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his first full-length animated movie, perfect. They worked on it for almost 4 years, spending $1.5 million, and the 750 artists drew over a million drawings for the film. Ward Kimball, one of the animators for Snow White, worked 240 days on a 4 1/2 minute sequence for the movie in which the dwarfs made soup for Snow White and almost destroyed the kitchen in the process. It was a funny scene! After seeing the sequence, Walk Disney also thought it was funny, but he decided the scene got in the way of the flow of the picture, so it was cut out of the final film.
When the film of our lives is shown, will it be as great as it might be? In other words, what things, even good or bad things, might we need to cut out of our lives, so that we can engage in the truly great things God wants to do through us.
I want to encourage us this morning to think about the choices we make, and how we spend our time, and why we do the things that we do, so that we might live to the glory of God.
As Christians, we know that life is more than simply filling our time with various activities. God has a purpose for the world, and for all things, which means that God also has a purpose for us that He wants us to engage in. God wants us to join Him in His mission to share the good news of Jesus with all nations. And that’s one aspect of the Christian life in which we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We’re to give ourselves first to the Lord.
So, what are you doing?
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25)
Father, help us all to turn from the sin that still clings to us, and help us to rest and rejoice in what Jesus has already accomplished for us and in us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
This is probably going to backfire on me this morning, but I’ve got to ask. What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?
The week before I started college, my roommate and I did something just insanely stupid. I’ve probably done many more stupid things since then, but this is the one that sticks out in my mind. And as soon as we did it, I was like, “That was stupid.” You ever do that?
So a week before I started college, I moved out of my parents’ house and into the dorm room where I would live for the school year at Missouri Baptist College, which is now Missouri Baptist University. That day, I met my roommate, Kurt, who was just about the best roommate that I could ask for.
He explained to me that coffee creamer is extremely flammable when it’s separated as a powder. So we went out into the hall just outside of our dorm room, and he took a match, and did this.
[Video clip: Coffee Creamer is Flammable]
Now, that was really cool, but when we did that, we forgot to look around for smoke detectors. And it just so happened that there was a smoke detector right above where we did that, which was immediately triggered, which caused the fire alarm to go off, which caused the entire dormitory to be evacuated.
When we do something stupid like that, we realize it right away because we know we should have known better. And it’s often very similar when it comes to our sin.
Even after we’ve been saved, we continue to sin. We know that sin is bad, and that the law is good, but we keep choosing what’s bad rather than what’s good! Look at verse 14.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. (Romans 7:14-15)
We saw last week that the law, and all of God’s word, is good. God gives us commands in His word so that if we were to obey them, not only would we glorify God, but we would be living in the way that’s best for our own lives. And yet there’s often this huge disconnect between how we know we ought to live, and how we actually live.
Maybe you’ve wondered before why it’s so hard to change. Maybe you’ve tried over and over again to give up a certain bad habit or sin, or you’ve tried without success to start doing something good that you really want to do, but just haven’t been able to accomplish. Why is it so hard to change?
We’re going to see in the coming weeks, in Romans chapter 8, that the Holy Spirit helps us to break this pattern. But for now, at this point in the letter to the Romans, Paul just wants you to feel this tension. In our flesh, in our natural state before we came to know Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in us, and even now, even as we seek to walk by the Spirit, we have this tension in us in which we want to do good, but we so often choose what we hate.
Paul states in verse 15 that he doesn’t even understand why he does this, so I’m not sure we can figure it out, either. But Paul does tell us at least a couple reasons why we do what we do.
Number one, by continuing to sin, doing the things that we don’t want to do, we agree with God about our sin. Look at verse 16.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. (Romans 7:16-20)
We saw last week that part of the purpose of God’s law was to show that our sin has become sinful beyond measure. Part of God’s goal in making anything in the first place is to display His absolute victory over anything contrary to Him. Therefore, the law is written not only to show how we might glorify God, but to show that we don’t even come close to glorifying God the way that we ought.
In other words, when we break the law, we acknowledge that we needed the law to instruct us. If we all loved one another, for example, the way that we ought to love one another, we wouldn’t need a command to remind us to love one another. But God commands us to love one another precisely because we don’t love one another.
Put it this way. No one needs to command me to love my kids. I just do. I’m not even aware of any Bible verses that tell us to love our kids. There are a ton of Bible verses that tell us how to treat our kids: how to train them up, how not to provoke them, and so on, but I don’t know of any Bible verses that command us to actually love our children. Now, does that mean God doesn’t want us to love them? No, it just means that for most of us, loving our kids comes so incredibly natural to us, so that we don’t need the command.
But we are commanded in the law to love God. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says:
Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
So, apparently, both we and our children don’t naturally do a great job of loving God, so we’re commanded in the law to love God, and to teach our children, who we seem to naturally love, to love God. It’s a good law, it’s the greatest commandment, but it’s still a law. And we’ve all broken this law.
The same is true of all of God’s commands. When we break the law, especially when we don’t want to break the law, we show that what we did was worthy of condemnation. And when we admit to ourselves and to God that we’re sinners, what we’re doing is that we’re agreeing with God about our sin, and therefore acknowledging our need for a Savior.
And yet, even as we continue to break the law, Paul reminds us that there’s a new reality going on in the life of the believer. Verse 21.
So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. (Romans 7:21-23)
Basically, when we received Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit came into our lives, and we were given a new nature. We are new in Christ. Our old nature was characterized by sin and death, but our new nature is characterized by righteousness and life. Our old nature is still trying to hold on, trying to fight for control of us, but in a very real way, it’s no longer us who sin, but it’s sin itself that keeps sinning in us. But the new reality in us, our inner self, delights in God’s law.
Now, if that doesn’t confuse you like it does me, you’re much smarter than I am. But, remember, Paul said at the start that he doesn’t understand all this. He doesn’t understand what he does.
Do you understand what you do?
I think if you understand what you do, or think that you understand what you do, you’re either a perfect person, which is impossible this side of heaven, or else you’ve justified yourself in your own eyes. The Bible says that if you claim to be without sin, you’re a liar, and there is no truth in you. But God would have you admit that you’re a sinner, and admit that only Jesus can save you.
You see, as confusing as much of this is, Paul is sure of one thing, and we can be sure of it, too. Verse 24.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a)
The gospel truth is that Jesus Christ saves sinners. We sin, but Jesus saves. Out of God’s abundant mercy, God rescues us even though we do the evil that we don’t even want to do.
In another place, Paul wrote this to Timothy:
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” —and I am the worst of them. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Paul was the worst sinner; it’s recorded in Scripture. And yet, because God loves us, God sent Jesus to die for Paul and all of us, and we receive salvation simply by trusting in Jesus.
This chapter ends with, I think, one of the most confusing statements so far. Look at the end of verse 25.
So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin. (Romans 7:25b)
After all that we’ve read up to this point, I would expect Paul to write something like, “Who will rescue me from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, although we were dead because of our sin, we are made alive and new because of God’s grace.” And certainly that truth is taught in other parts of Scripture, but Paul wraps up this line of thought not by reminding us of our new nature, but of our continual battle with our old nature: “with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.”
I think by reminding us of the war being waged within us, Paul is urging us to continue to rest in the grace of God. Our works can’t save us. Only Jesus can save us, and He does it by grace through faith in Him.
It doesn’t matter how much you want to serve God. And in many ways, it doesn’t even matter how much you are serving God, although we ought to serve Him more and more as we grow in our faith. Even still, as you serve God, always remember that you’re not saved by your service to God. You’re saved only by grace.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)