Summary: We don’t let sin define us, we defy it and defy it and defy it.
Title: Paradox: Desiring Good and Doing Bad
Text: Romans 7:15-8:1
The Big Idea: We don’t let sin define us, we defy it and defy it and defy it!
Alex Gibney’s documentary on the life of “Gonzo” Hunter S. Thompson suggests that Thompson, “who committed suicide in 2005, survives to some degree in the popular imagination because of his self-burnished reputation for excess.” (A.O. Scott, “Beyond Fear and Loathing”, The New York Times, July 4, 2008)
In life and in death, Hunter Thompson was and is defined by his excesses.
We may be defined by many things. Some of us are defined by our ethnic heritage as reflected in continued traditions, the way we cook and eat, even our accents define us. Some of us are defined by our appearance. Some are defined by strengths and others by their weaknesses. We may be defined by our work. Sometimes we are defined by our spouses or our children. Here at church Bonnie is defined as Pastor Monty’s wife… at her work, I am defined as Bonnie’s husband.
I once knew a man who drove a bull wagon… he was a livestock hauler and he drove a cattle truck. He always wore a big floppy, rawhide, cowboy hat. It looked hot and heavy. I did not think it particularly flattering. One day I asked him why he always wore his rawhide hat and he said, “Because people know me by my hat.” His hat defined who he was.
Sometimes Christians are defined by noble demonstrations of Christ like behavior and sometimes, we are known for our failures… This may come as a huge shock to you but there is something you need to know.
1. Christians sin
This is how the Apostle Paul spoke of the influence of sin in his life:
• “…I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master.” 7:14
• “…I know what is right but I don’t do it.” 7:15
• “I know what I am doing is wrong…” 7:16
• “…sin inside me makes me do these things.” 7:17
• “I know I am rotten through and through…” 7:18
• “When I want to do good, I don’t.” 7:19
• “…sin within me is doing it.” 7:20
• “…I inevitably do what is wrong.” 7:21
• “…this law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” 7:23
• “…who will free me from being dominated by sin?” 7:24
• “…because of my sinful nature, I am a slave to sin.” 7:25
This text is somewhat controversial. Some contend that what Paul is saying could not be descriptive of his life as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. They contend that Paul must be talking about his life before becoming a Christian… surely a man of God of the stature of the Apostle Paul could not have struggled so with his thoughts, words, and deeds.
Those who espouse the doctrine of sinless perfection are up against it in this text because Paul clearly uses “present tense” language and he describes himself as desiring to obey God, which is generally not the expressed desire of an unbeliever. But perhaps most convincing for people like me, is that my experience is not unlike that of the Apostle Paul. I know what it is to desire to do the right thing, but then blow it.
In reflecting on this text, the writer in Homiletics Magazine quoted a campus pastor from Texas who said, “This just feels like my relationship with God. Paul isn’t the only person who feels this way or has this experience… when he says “I” – I think it means me.” (Homiletics, July 2008, p. 10)
Perhaps you too resonate with the experience of the Apostle Paul.
It is certainly God’s expressed desire that we live sinless lives. John wrote,
• “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ…” I John 2:1
When our children were born, we started them out with baby bottles. They then progressed to using sippy cups. And then, they were given their milk in a glass. The expressed goal, usually expressed numerous times during the meal was, “Be careful. Don’t spill your milk.” But inevitably… someone spilled their milk. This is an area in which children have not evolved… our grandchildren are as inept as were their parents at the spilling of milk.
The ideal is to not spill the milk… but if you do, you have a loving parent or grandparent who will clean it up for you.
The Word of God has a specific word to all of us, but in particular to those who claim to never spill their milk. John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleans us from every wrong. If we say we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his Word has no place in our hearts.” I John 1:8-10