Summary: Why is it that we still feel guilty? Does sin mean that we are not really saved? This sermon looks at Paul's response to the question 'why do I keep on sinning even when I do not want to!'
What in life do you find hard to believe?
When we came to the states almost four weeks ago, we arrived at London Heathrow with a mountain of luggage. We were flying with Air India and their luggage rules were a little vague, and I was looking at this mountain of luggage and trying to make sense of the luggage rules. In theory we would be fine, but there was this small voice within that kept saying, “surely not”. It really was a lot, and it did not seem right for a budget airline to be so generous. On the trip to the airport I was thinking what bits I could leave behind, or how much I was prepared to pay in excess.
Needless to say, we arrived at the airport, checked in, and all our luggage was accepted. Despite my feelings of doubt when I looked at our luggage mountain, we were fine.
The reality differed considerably from the feeling.
As a Christian this morning, do you feel guilty even though Jesus death and resurrection has covered your sin? Do you continue to punish yourself because you feel unworthy of the grace you have received in Christ Jesus?
Well, Paul is with you brother!
Paul could be anyone of us as he struggles with the feeling of inadequacy in this passage.
Ch 7:22 reads, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”
Paul has been transformed by his radical encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road and knows he has eternal life in Christ Jesus. There is no question that Paul is in Christ, and there is no doubt that he knows his salvation comes through grace by faith.
But his problem is this…
Why do I go on sinning, when I really do not want to!
This is a position common to all Christians, yet we like to think we are the only one. We look at ourselves and think that surely no one else is struggling with sin. Surely everyone else has come to Christ and got their lives sorted. Therefore, I best keep my struggles to myself so not to reveal myself as the one sinner in the church.
Of course, this is a lie the devil wants us to believe.
Do not suffer alone!
Paul is the super apostle who took the gospel to many people, wrote many great things, helped so many people: past, present and future to grow in love and understanding of God. Paul helps us to realise what our salvation really looks like.
Yet, Paul is saying that he struggles with the knowledge of being saved in Christ not matching up with his experience of ongoing sin in his life.
See how Paul cries out in Ch 7:24…
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
It is a real problem for Christians, there is no need to deny the struggle. It is the guilt and feeling of condemnation that leads us away from God, his church, and the fullness of life. The guilt makes us resentful of other people who seem to have it all sorted. The feeling of condemnation stops us from living as freed men and women.
For me it manifests as this feeling that when I sin, I jeopardize God’s plans for me and my family. It is a fear that God will stop loving me because I am hopeless at living a righteous and pure life.
Paul describes that our bodies are the battle ground of spiritual warfare. It is the draw of the sinful nature of the flesh which leads us to distrust God. It makes us think that God’s ways for us are not good. The sinful nature tells us that purity is stifling, it would be much better to live a little. The sinful nature tells us that integrity is a waste of time because everyone else is doing what they can to get ahead by whatever means.
Paul describes our experience that when we try and do good, sin is right there with me. And the guilt makes us feel as if we are still condemned. We think that this sin in our lives is evidence that we have not been freed and still face condemnation.
Paul is writing to secure his readers in an understanding of the gospel that will not disappoint. He has built up this real situation that the Christian encounters… how can I have any certainty of salvation when the sinful nature appears to be ruling in my life?
And see how he responds in Ch 8 verse 1: