Summary: Tell me: why do Christians behave they way they do? Hmmm? I mean, less-than-holy behavior at times. It’s because they are "human." Human! An incalculable gift from God!
Author: Dr. Neal Gray
Passage: Romans 7:18 - 8:1, KJV
Purpose: Tell me: why do Christians behave they way they do? Hmmm? I mean, less-than-holy behavior at times. It’s because they are "human." Human! An incalculable gift from God!
Have you stopped to think about the reality that you are a "human"? I mean, this is getting down to the absolute fundamentals here. As a human, all sorts of incredible and even unknowable things surround your existence. Today, I want to talk about--actually I need to talk about for my own good--why we behave the way we do.
I have been struggling for a number of years, about a phenomenon I see in Christian people, (including myself). It happens in unsaved people, too; if this phenomenon happened only in unsaved persons, then the dilemma would be easily solved. But it happens in Christian persons, in saved-and-sanctified Christian persons; and it’s there that I find the great mystery.
Before we get to the Scripture focus for the sermon, (a Scripture that explains the situation to my satisfaction), I’ll give you a brief idea of this phenomenon, this dilemma, this mystery.
I’m talking about behavior. While WE ARE INGENIOUSLY GOOD AT HIDING IT from one another, I have noted that from time-to-time we Christians behave in ways that are...well, less than what we might think is within normal bounds for a good-and-godly person.
And because of such behavior there is a perplexing of our minds, of our hearts--a perplexing of our spirits when we behave in these less-than-holy ways. Questions understandably arise within us when our behavior sinks to low levels, questions such as:
"Why did I just do that? What caused me to behave in a way that I know my God would prefer me not to do? Am I really a holy person? Or have I been fooling myself all these years?"
These questions come. Even worse than evaluating our ownselves, I find that church folk are very ready to evaluate the less-than-optimal behavior of their fellow church-goers. Observing Brother Berfert or Sister Gertrude, (purely fictional names!), behaving somewhat outside of the norm for Christian persons makes us think: "Well, they certainly are not spiritual. Not as spiritual as they think, anyway!"
==> Are our observations themselves even within the bounds of good Christian behavior? While Jesus clearly teaches us to not judge others, "judge not, that ye be not judged," (Matthew 7:1); He also tells us that "you shall know them by their fruits," (Matthew 7:16a). What’s right? What’s best?
The message today attempts to give some understanding of why good-and-godly Christians sometimes "misbehave."
Our Scripture spans from the last part of Romans chapter 7 to the first verse in chapter 8. The great Apostle Paul is speaking. Let’s look together now:
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 7:18-8:1, KJV)
POPULAR INTERPRETATIONS OF THIS PASSAGE
This passage generates a lot of different opinions among theologians. I’ve heard two major theories given for the meaning of this Scripture passage. I’ll give them to you briefly, and then offer a different "angle" on this passage, so listen closely and pray for God’s good guidance in the matter.
Paul Before Salvation
The first theory is that St. Paul is remembering how life was before he was saved.
In this situation, Paul was remembering that "no good thing dwelt in him." We would all agree that before salvation, sin clearly dwells in people. It is easy for an unsaved person to do the evil thing. In fact, it is very natural. Paul discerned that the "law of sin" was governing his life.
So Paul cries out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" He came to his senses. He cries out for help from the life of sin and separation from God.