Summary: Paul discovers that he cannot escape from the pwoer of sin and evil in his life. His only hope is Jesus.
Romans 7:15-25a “Trapped”
I going to name a number of people, and I’d like to see if you can identify the one thing that they have in common. Here goes: Moses, King David, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, JFK, Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Taylor, Bill Clinton, Lindsey Lohan, Anthony Weiner, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson. All of these people reach the greatest heights of success—they conquered the world—but they couldn’t defeat their personal demons. Murder, rape, adultery, addiction and a host of other evils became their downfall—or at least tarnished their images.
We aren’t that much different from the rich and famous. We’re all human, and it seems that we pay more attention to and spend more time and energy on controlling the outward things of life than we do our inward beings. We put on a good front, but we keep people distant—and perhaps even attempt to keep God distant—to keep others from knowing who we really are.
It would seem that Christians should not have this problem. After all, Paul wrote in last week’s lesson that we have been baptized into Christ’s death and raised to a new life. If this is true, sin should then be only a distant memory—certainly not something that is a part of our lives today. But not even a “super saint” like Paul escaped the struggle of sin in his life. In this passage of scripture, he addresses our common situation.
Many people have tried to figure out why we are the way we are and why we do what we do. Flip Wilson, who was a comedian in the late twentieth century, popularized his own rational. [Show Video]
Paul didn’t agree with Flip’s logic. Instead, he begins by looking at the law. For Paul, the law meant the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. These books not only contain the Ten Commandments, but also the early stories of God’s movement in the people of Israel.
We all dream of what life would be like without rules, laws and expectations. I remember how riled I would get at some of the rules that my parents set down—curfew, chores, study and work priorities, etiquette and others. They appeared to be such a hindrance to life—merely created to rob me of my true enjoyment of life. Even as adults we find ourselves wondering, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to …”
Laws are necessary, though. We need to know what is right and wrong. By striving to achieve what the law says is right—even though we may not achieve it—we agree that the law is good. People who have no sense of right and wrong are called “sociopaths.” They are usually very dangerous people. This gift, which was intended to make life better, made life worse because it not only was impossible to attain, but also showed us who we are.
THE WET PAINT SIGN
I think that all of us have come across as “Wet Paint, Don’t Touch” sign. What is our usual reaction to such a sign? Most of us will reach out and touch the paint to see if it is really wet. There is something within us that rebels against authority. Like the words of that famous song by Frank Sinatra, “We want it our way!” or Burger King, “Have it your way!”
We not only rebel against earthly authorities and God, we also find ourselves rebelling against ourselves. Paul says that he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do what he wants to do. Paul has it right, we are at war with ourselves.
To further complicate things there are times when it is difficult to discern God’s will. Often we are forced to make decisions based on the better of two evils. Many times it is only after we make a decision that we are able to determine if it is the correct one or not. There are also those times when we know what God wants us to do—how God wants us to follow him—but we don’t have the will or the courage to do so.
For most our human condition appears hopeless, but not for Paul.
THANKS BE TO GOD
There is a saying that, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It is our forgiveness through the cross of Christ—his life, death and resurrection—that is our hope.
The law will always be a part of our lives, but God’s love through the cross of Christ fulfills the law. We cannot escape God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness.
We walk forgiven. We live free from shame and guilt. We are able to do this because of what God has done and not because of what we have done.
Our problems don’t go away by ignoring them. We will never be molded into the image of God until we admit where we don’t fit that image in our lives.
Secure in our forgiveness and not our perfection, we live boldly and lovingly.