Summary: We don’t have what it takes to live a Christian life. Only Jesus Christ living through us can do that.
I can’t remember when I first learned John 3:16. It seems as if I grew up knowing this verse of Scripture. I heard about a lady who used to make her children memorize a verse of Scripture when they wanted something. One day her daughter said, "Momma, everything I have I have because of Scripture. I look at my shoes and say, there goes John 3:16. I look at my new coat and say, there goes Psalm 23." Not a bad idea actually.
But through the teaching of my parents and through the teaching of my Sunday School teacher and through the preaching of my pastor, I came to realize that I needed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. So one day my Sunday School teacher prayed with me. That morning I walked the aisle, made a public confession of my faith in Jesus Christ, filled out the membership card, was introduced to the congregation, and was baptized a few weeks later. At eight years of age, I was a confirmed, baptized, certified Baptist Christian. I somehow thought that God had zapped me with the magic of His hand, made me perfect, and I would never sin again. I thought I had been so changed that I would never let Him down.
Within hours, I made a mistake that was so obvious even I noticed it. By the time I got home, I picked a fight with my older brother. And immediately after that a demon whispered in my ear, "You must not be a Christian, because a Christian wouldn’t do a thing like that." Too many years later, I learned to my delight, the fact that God doesn’t kick His kids out of the family when they mess up.
For the thirty-five years that I have been a Christian, two things have constantly puzzled me.
1. How much God loves me.
2. How sinful I still am.
It’s been somewhat encouraging to go through life and find other Christians who have felt the same way. In our hymnal is a song entitled "Beneath the Cross of Jesus," and the author says, "...Two wonders I confess: The wonders of His glorious love and my unworthiness." But the most encouraging words I’ve every found are in God’s Word. These are a testimony by someone who undoubtedly was one of the greatest Christians of his day and of all times. This is the testimony of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25. Verses 14-20 are stated in somewhat legal fashion, and in verses 21-25, the same thing is said again in a more philosophical way. Look at it with me.
READ Romans 7:14-25
There are two questions that seem to bother most of us.
1. If I can’t live a perfect life, then how can I know I’m a Christian?
2. If I don’t have what it takes, what does it take?
If I Can’t Live A Perfect Life, Then How Can I Know I’m A Christian
If I can’t live a Christian life, how do I know that I’m a Christian?
People are always asking me, "Just how much does it take? How much good do you have to do to please God? If we can’t do it all the time, how much does it take? If I can’t live a perfect life, how can I know I am a Christian?
In this testimony, we need to ask ourselves something. At what stage in his life was the apostle Paul living when he said these things? Is this the statement of someone before they came to Christ: "I’ve got this war in me, and I can’t win it"? Is this someone who is a brand new Christian, just beginning to take his first wobbly steps and crying out like a baby, saying, "I don’t think I can ever learn to do this"?
You’ll notice in Romans 7 that these two testimonies are stated in two different tenses. When he says, "I didn’t have what it takes to become a Christian," it’s stated in the past tense. He says, "I was..., I did..., I thought..." But when you get to Romans 7:14 where this testimony begins, it becomes present tense.
He begins to say, "I am..., There is no good in me." He’s saying he simply does not have what it takes to please the Lord. He uses words like "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."
These are the words of one of the most committed missionaries the world ever met. These are the words of a man who when he spoke them was undoubtedly one of the greatest Christians of his day and of all times. He spoke these things in the present tense.