Summary: But for the Holy Spirit we are lost in our slavery to sin.
“Between the Lines: Taking Control of Your Life”
It was a media heyday as thousands, if not millions, sat glued by their television sets watching a white Ford Bronco speeding down a California freeway with scores of the California Highway Patrol cautiously in pursuit. O. J. Simpson, public hero turned public enemy turned public goat, was the center of attention as he had never been before. We know only too well the rest of the story. My interest this morning is not to defend or defame O. J. Rather I want to draw attention to a letter he wrote while he was on the run, before he was arrested. As read to the press by a friend of his, it said, “I’ve had a good life. I’m proud of how I lived. My Mama taught me to do unto others. I treated people the way I wanted to be treated…Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O. J. and not this lost person.” O. J. knew something deep inside him was wrong – very wrong. And he didn’t want to be remembered for it.
And that’s understandable – how would you like to be remembered for the worst moment or experience of your life? Or to have your entire life, no holds barred, hung out to dry in full public view? It’s a frightening thought, isn’t it? The apostle Paul addresses this in the 8th chapter of Romans where he wrote that BUT FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT WE ARE LOST IN OUR SLAVERY TO SIN. Let’s see how he explains it.
Paul said there is, first of all, A DIVISION WITHIN US. Read again verse 5: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” To illustrate, imagine your body as a house. It has three floors – a basement, main floor, and an upstairs. Consider THE BASEMENT. The basement represents the depths of darkness, death, and despair. It houses sin, rebellion, disobedience, pride, selfishness, sensual drives. It’s significant that even Sigmund Freud, who was not a believer in God, said we had an Id full of these desires. He postulated that this Id was like original sin – something warped and twisted in human nature that needed fixing. Through his years of practice and study, Freud came to the conclusion that EVERY PERSON’S BASIC NATURE IS EVIL.
That, of course, is what we’ve been hearing from Paul throughout this book of Romans. We are all poisoned by sin. As the great R. A. Torrey put it, “No matter how excellent our ancestry, we have come into this world with a mind that is blind to the truth of God…Having affections that are alienated from God, we love the things we ought to hate and hate the things we ought to love.” It’s natural to be this way. It’s unavoidable - the basement voice of our lives pulls us down into sinful living. What people do every day for greed, power, sex, anger, revenge, selfishness, fear, and ambition is astonishing – but these are the untamed instincts of our human nature. Evil resides in the basements of our lives. We’re all capable of hideous things. We can never look at some evil action and truthfully say, “Oh, I’d never do that.” The truth is, we could do that. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
Preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Everything that is evil lurks within the heart of everyone that is born of a woman. Education may restrain it, imitation of a good example may have some power in holding the monster down; but the very best of us, apart from the grace of God, placed under certain circumstances which would cause the evil within us to be developed rather than restrained, would soon prove to be a demonstration that our nature was evil, and only evil, and that continually. You may take a bag of gunpowder, and play with it if you care to do so, for it is quite harmless as long as you keep the fire from it; but just put one spark of fire to it, and then you will discover the force for evil that was latent in that innocent-looking powder. You may tame a tiger if you begin training it early enough, and you may treat it as if it was only a big cat; but let it once learn the taste of blood, and you will soon see the true tiger nature flashing from its eyes, and seeking to destroy all that come within reach of its cruel claws. In a similar fashion to that, sin is originally latent within every one of us…” Whether you want to admit it or not, the right spark could set your basement of sin powder exploding in ways you never thought possible. But for the Holy Spirit, we are lost in our slavery to sin.