Summary: Living in Christ means that our minds and hearts will continue to grow and conform in Him, but our old selves don't want to let go and our common enemy will find ways to remind us of our failures.
Just a show of hands please.
Who here wants to live a life of regrets?
And a show of hands for who wants to life a life of rejection?
OK. How about a show of hands for who wants to have a life of pain and anguish?
What? No takers?
Ok, let me try another question.
Can I have a show of hands who wants a life of false starts and mixed blessings?
So <nobody>? Here wants to live a life of regrets, nobody here has opted for a lifetime of rejection, and nobody here has requested pain and anguish or a run-on life of false starts and mixed blessings.
Yet, that is the reality of the Christian life for so many of us.
So many Christians continue to live in regret. Regrets are, I might add, a form of unforgiveness – it is self-unforgiving that forms the core of a regret. I have some regrets as I’m sure many of you do, but I don’t dwell in them. I know it’s easy to see a pattern in our own lives – multiple failures of the same variety, constant nagging of what you should have done. Memories of things that didn’t go well, or things we didn’t do when we know we should have done them.
When we are attacked – and to be sure, there are many times in our lives when we have been and will be spiritually under attack – one of the tools of our common enemy is regret. This starts with the dragging up of old failures so that we can relive them in our minds and beat ourselves up repeatedly for the same failings.
Our enemy drags these old wounds and old failures around like trophies and will dance around, proudly parading them in a hideous circus of accusation, mockery and ridicule all aimed to tear you down. Aimed to draw you into doing something they want you to do – their will.
And the lie that is pushed at you is that everyone will be better off if you give up. If you quit. If you go away. If you aren’t around anymore. It’s a lie, an especially cruel one designed to separate you from God’s will.
Who is the champion of tearing us down?
Is it the neighborhood gossip?
Is it an old friend or enemy?
No. Its you. You are the champion ‘tearer-downer’ of self.
This morning I want each of us to really think this through carefully.
Our enemy has been around for several thousand years learning what it takes to really push someone’s buttons, and he attacks Christians -- even the stronger Christians -- in moments of weakness or failure. I stand before you as a fine example of someone who is very good at tearing himself down. There’s perhaps a lifetime of practice so I’ve refined it into a precision skill, but I’ve also learned that unmistakable signature of Christ’s voice when I read it in scripture.
One of the signature scriptures where I hear his voice is in Romans 8:1 where it clearly states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” As old Pastor Dave used to say, when you see the ‘therefore’ you need to understand what it’s there, for.
It’s there for the subject of the conflict of the two natures as written the preceding chapter. As we know, the earthy penmanship of Paul with the authorship of the Holy Spirit wrote the book of Romans, and this short chapter in Romans details something that we must never forget. It’s the Christian condition of being saved from the law and from the slavery of sin, yet still living with it that presents a conflict. We’re called out of sin; saved from it by grace and the precious gift of salvation; the gift of salvation that is imparted to us by our savior, Christ Jesus.
Let’s pick up Paul’s written experience with this internal conflict and see how it is so masterfully articulated in just a few verses.
READ ROMANS 7:21-25
That’s what the therefore is there for. This is the conflict. So what is the cure?
READ ROMANS 8:1-8
When I tear myself down over something, I am conforming to the flesh.
And let’s be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive to be better – being upset with yourself because you didn’t get it right like you might have is the first step to improving. We can only improve when we first recognize that what we’ve done is incorrect.
There is by necessity, a measure of mental anguish that we employ to avoid making the same mistake again.
I learned to bowl this way. As a young lad, a bowling alley came to our suburb and it was a big thing back then. So, with my old friend Bill Jackson, we went bowling and watched how other people so effortlessly slipped that black ball down the alley to take out as many pins as possible.