Summary: We all have two wars brewing inside of us. The war of good vs evil or flesh vs spirit, and the war of grace vs guilt
A hotel in Galveston, Texas, that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico, faced a potential problem. The edge of the hotel hangs over the water. Before the hotel opened, someone thought, "What if someone decides to fish out of the windows?" This person then erected signs saying not to fish from the hotel windows. You can probably guess what happened… People fished out of the windows. Rather than preventing a problem, the signs had the opposite effect and simply exposed humankind's rebellious nature.
I struggle with my rebellious nature from time to time. I was in the Metamora Courthouse on my birthday, and there were signs everywhere that read do not touch. Even though I had no desire to touch a particular item with a sign saying do not touch, I suddenly had an urge to touch the item after I read the sign. There is just something in our sinful human nature that wants to do things we are not supposed to do. Don’t worry, I was able to fight off the temptation. I did not touch anything I was not supposed to. But, man I still want to go back up there and touch that piano!
Even Saint. Augustine confessed to doing something he knew was wrong just for the thrill of getting away with something. In his Confessions, Augustine (354-430), the well-known theologian, reflected on this attraction to the forbidden. He wrote, "There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit. One stormy night we rascally youths set out to rob it … We took off a huge load of pears -- not to feast upon ourselves, but to throw them to the pigs, though we ate just enough to have the pleasure of the forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it was not the pears that my wretched soul coveted, for I had plenty better at home. I picked them simply to become a thief … The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing."
Over the past few weeks as we have traveled down this Roman Road to a Savior, we have been exploring what I like to call the good stuff. The beginning of Romans is a bit tough to digest, because Paul basically says that we are all evil sinners who have broken God’s law and deserve to die. Finally, beginning in the last part of chapter three through chapter six Paul has discussed grace, righteousness, mercy, salvation, hope, and our new life through our faith and baptism in Jesus Christ. He has made it clear that those of us who are Christ followers are indeed God’s children who God showers with the gifts of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope, and new life through our baptism. And let’s not forget the gift of the Holy Spirit. For it is through the Holy Spirit that we are strengthen to live life as children of God who have been washed cleaned by blood of the lamb. Yes, the Christian life is good. Our sins have been forgiven, and we can be confident in the hope that we will one day stand before the throne of God as though we have never sinned. So, as we travel down the road a little further we almost expect Paul to tell us how to live a sin free life. But, as we make a stop in chapter 7, we don’t get instructions on how to live a sin free life. Instead, we are told about the war that rages within us once we decide to be a Christ follower. The war of good verses evil. The war may be good vs evil, but all too often the battles in this war are of grace verses guilt.
Paul begins chapter 7 by talking about the law. He uses the example of a husband and wife. He only talks about the wife being bound to the husband, because that is how it was back then. But, his example can be used for both the husband and the wife. A husband and wife are bound to each other until death do them part. After one spouse dies, however the other spouse if fee to marry if that is what he or she wishes to do. As Christ followers, we have died to the law and have been released from the law to serve Christ through the Holy Spirit. However, Paul points out that even though we are not under the law, the law is still beneficial to Christ followers because it is through the law that we are made aware of sin. Paul’s main point in verses 7 through 13 is that the Law is not the problem. The problem is that humans are sinful. We seem to be back to the indictment of the human race again. If Paul was preaching this letter, at this point I would want to stand up and say “Come on Paul, I thought we have been justified by our faith in Christ, why are you pounding us about our sinful nature again?” But that is not what Paul is doing here. Romans 7:14-25 can be quite hard to follow at times. It is one of those passages that I wish Paul would have just summarized the point he was trying to make. In these verses Paul makes the argument that yes we are indeed saved by our faith in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we will never sin again. There are many benefits of being a Christ follower, but living a sinless life on this side of heaven does not appear to be one of them. Paul describes the battle within himself. He did not want to sin, but he found himself continuing to sin. And, he wanted to do good, but he was not always able to do the good he wanted to do. Paul then explains that as Christ followers we still have sin that lives in us. Even though we desire to live a life that pleases God, the sin that is in our DNA, the sin that has been passed down to us from our ancestors, still continues to sin. It is our flesh of our old life without Christ that is constantly doing battle with our new life in the Spirit. Sometimes or for some of us like me, a lot of the times our flesh wins and we sin. We can all identify with Paul when he concludes this section of his letter by saying “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”