Summary: After 22 years of being a believer knowing Jesus Christ, Paul was still a maturing Christian. He said, “I still have to deal with and confront sin.”
Beginning in verse 14 of Romans, chapter 7, I will talk to you about correcting your “I” problem. The big “I.” But before I start the message, I want to make an identification for you. I’ve been pastor here at Green Acres for a little over 7 ½ years and there is a man who is a member of this church who has given me more trouble than anybody else I’ve ever met! I stay angry at him, most of the time. In fact, sometimes, he just makes me so miserable! And I want to identify him this morning. I want him to stand up…in fact he already is standing up, because I’m talking about myself.
The guy I have more trouble with than anybody else is my wife’s first husband! That’s me. Do you know why? Because I really want to be a great husband, a great father, and I really want to be a great pastor! But sometimes my performance doesn’t match up with my desire. So you know, I’ve got a problem. I am a recovering sinner, and I’m told that at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings somebody stands up and says, “Hello, my name is so-and-so, and I’m an alcoholic.” So, “Hello, my name is David Dykes, and I am a sinner.” I’m still recovering, and if you’re a Christian, you are too. I’ve got an “I” problem. I’ve got a sinful nature in me I still struggle with, even though I am a believer. If you don’t, then maybe you’ve learned a secret the apostle Paul and I have not, or maybe you’re just not as sensitive to that tension in your life. I want us to look in Romans, chapter 7, beginning in verse 14, and read about the problem Paul had with the “Big I.” He had an “I” problem and if you care to count you’ll find that in these verses he uses the first personal pronoun (either I, Me, My or Myself) 40 times in this short passage! He really had an “I” problem.
See if you can relate to this personally. “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual (Underline that word unspiritual. It is actually the word, ‘carnal’ which means fleshly.) sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do…And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who does it but it is sin living in me.” Then, verse 18 contains Paul’s self-evaluation. He says, “I know that nothing good lives in me – that is, in my sinful nature.” (By the way, those words “sinful nature” are the very same as in verse 14 – that word “carnal,” “fleshly,” “in my sinful nature.”) For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do – no, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.” Do you have that problem? “If I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war (Paul says this is a conflict) against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” And he is so frustrated. Paul says, in verse 24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Here’s the answer in verse 25: “Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! “So then (he summarizes) I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
Salvation is in three tenses
It is something that happened to you, it is something that is happening to you and it is something that will happen to you. First of all, in the past tense, if you are a Christian you have experienced justification by faith. Justification is when God looks as you because you put your faith in Jesus Christ and he declares you “legally righteous–justified.” That’s is not our righteousness, but it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we’re in. And he says, “You are not guilty.” What does justification do? Justification removes the penalty for sin. Do you know what the penalty for sin is? Death, hell, separation from God forever and ever. When you become a Christian, God says, “The penalty for sin? BOOM. It’s gone!”