Summary: Even if we want to obey God it can be difficult. This sermon explains how God helps us to obey him.
A New Heart and A New Spirit
The problem: Romans 7:14-25 in The Message
What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary:
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway: My decisions, such as they are; don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”
This is the experience of the great Saint Paul – Wow! If he struggled with sin, what am I to do? Have you ever felt this way? That you want to do the right, but you end up doing the wrong?
The nation of Israel had this same struggle – the struggle between serving God and serving the gods and their fleshly desires.
This struggle goes on from almost day one. They go through periods of time when they serve God, but for the vast majority of time they give up on the struggle completely and forget God and his ways. Even in times of spiritual renewal, the high places where people worshiped other gods or tried to worship God in inappropriate ways were never completely removed – so the people always had opportunity and temptation to go running to the other gods when God wasn’t serving their purposes
“Throughout my life I have found that the best way to deal with temptation is to give into it.” – Dave from the Vinyl Café
The problem with giving into temptation over and over again is that it begins to be a habit – like a wagon that make ruts in a road it becomes easier and easier to just stay in the rut and continue to give in. This is where we find Judah and Jerusalem in the time of Ezekiel. They have gotten into a rut of sin, extreme promiscuity, idol worship, child sacrifice, and oppression of the poor and the weak.
They have become so bad that God finally has to remove them from the land he has promised them. He says in Ezekiel 33:25-29
“’This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? 26 You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Should you then possess the land?’
27 "Say this to them: ’This is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague. 28 I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. 29 Then they will know that I am the LORD , when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.’”
In Ezekiel 36, although God has cast his judgement upon them, he tells them that his Judgement will not last forever: one day he will restore them to the land that he promised them. This prophesy is fulfilled in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. God uses the pagan kings Cyrus and Artaxerxes to send the Jewish people back to Jerusalem and the land.