Summary: “It’s just a flesh wound!” Isn’t that way it is with all of the struggles, failures or wounds we incur at our own hand or by our own decisions? We always try to minimize it, making it much smaller and less serious than it really is. Recovery begins when y

Angels & Demons: flesh wounds

Romans 7:18-25

“It’s just a flesh wound!” Isn’t that way it is with all of the struggles, failures or wounds we incur at our own hand or by our own decisions? We always try to minimize it, making it much smaller and less serious than it really is. Jim Collins has written a book called "How the Mighty Fall" about businesses who at one time were strong and effective and yet went from hero to zero during the last decade. Motorola was number one in cell phones in the world in 2004 and today they are on the edge of bankruptcy. Rubbermaid in 2000 was a vital company and now is no more. Circuit City was a leader in electronics and now is closed. From these examples, Collins see five stages of demise when a company fails. The first is growth and success. Stage 2 is the undisciplined pursuit of more where ‘what becomes more important than ‘why’. Stage three is the denial of risk and peril. Stage four is grasping for salvation and Stage 5 is capitulation to irrelevance and death. Do you see the parallel of these five stages of demise and the company's failure to the pattern of our own spiritual and moral failures in life? The worst thing that can happen to us is to fail to be who God needs us to be.

The Bible, history and the church today are filled with people who have failed: Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggert and many more. King Solomon was a man who was anointed by God and had all of the potential in the world. He reigned over the most prosperous time in Israel’s history and built the city of Jerusalem into a world class city. He wrote 3 books of the Bible, including Proverbs where he wrote about wisdom and lust and men guarding their hearts. But the very thing Solomon professed, he didn't practice. His father David failed morally with Bathsheba and Solomon did the same thing in his life. But here’s the difference: while David failed, he repented and had a comeback so that he eventually was called by God to be a “man after God’s own heart.” Solomon never repented and continued a downward spiral. At the end of his life, Solomon was worshipping other gods and building pagan temples. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. These stories remind us that there is some dysfunction in all of us and that any one of us can fail. The worst thing is to fail spiritually and morally and lose the trust of God and those who depend upon you the most.

In our Scripture today, Paul confesses rather bluntly and honestly to his struggle with sin. “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…. Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me…..” Recovery begins when you realize there is a destructive force at work in you that you are powerless to overcome it in your own strength. The real problem is not external circumstances, not the economy, not my boss, not my spouse – but the real problem is the sin in me.

The Bible names two sources of our struggle with failure and sin. The first is our heart. Jesus says that the heart is the center of sin. "For from within, out of your hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness. envy, slander. arrogance and folly. All of these evils come from inside and defile you." Mark 7:21-23 How is your heart the center of these these things? Selfishness. Your heart determines your life choices. It all comes from your heart. Solomon wrote this: "Guard your heart in all you do." (Proverbs 4:23) but couldn't follow it. We can't get casual with this heart thing because the second part of what the word says is "the heart is deceitful above all things." In other words, your heart lies to you. It rationalizes, excuses and justifies your decisions and actions.

Here’s the other thing: we are much more likely to extend grace and forgiveness to ourselves than we are to others. We do something bad and think, “That's okay. I’ll just confess and God will forgive me.” I call this Tony Soprano spirituality. He would commit adultery, murder, lie and cheat and then just go to confession without any intent to repent, that is to turn from His ways. That cheapens God’s grace. Have you ever done that? We even try to back it up with Scripture. So we take verses like 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” and get into this repetitive cycle of sin and we leave out the second part of that verse: "And will cleanse us from all unrighteousness." God calls us to pursue holiness which is Godly integrity for apart from holiness, no one will see the Lord. So not only does your heart come up with this counterfeit faith by cheapening grace, it demeans the meaning of faith. You can’t just believe in the Lord of heaven and still live like hell. Even the demons in hell believe in the Lord in heaven. You can believe in the word of God without obeying the word of God. That's why the word says, "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Your heart lies to you by justifying your actions which cheapens grace, demeans faith and damages your witness. Instead, listen to the word of God and live it.

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