One of the real delights of preparing a sermon is the opportunity it provides to dig into the scripture and really study it. It can only be described as peeling back the layers of an onion to find the message lying within it. Martin Luther in his Commentary of Romans said this letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Luther makes a very valid point as this passages meaning continues to reveal itself as one dwells and studies it. It is a scripture that we should let wash over us and spend much more time with.
The question I pose to you today is do you really know that you have been saved from sin? Let me expand a little – I would think that most if not all listening today would call themselves followers of Jesus and that through his death we have been saved from sin. In this passage Pauls expands and explains this to a much deeper understanding.
In Romans 7 Paul deals with “The Law” and unpacks its meaning and our relationship with it today. The “law” he describes is the Hebrew Torah law or the “law of moses”. 613 commandments documented in the first 5 books of the bible. 248 positive commandments – the do’s and 365 negative commandments – the don’ts. This was God giving a guide to his people as to how to live – so they would become close to him.
Paul describes his relationship with “the law”. In verse 21 he says “although I want to do good, evil is right there beside me. The law is there to show us what sin is but the devil is right beside waging a battle.
The devil uses the law as an opportunity to make us sin. He is there to get us to “break the rules” and to be consumed by sin. Even from the garden of eden he has been there to do the wrong thing. In verse 8 Paul describes “sin seizing the opportunity”.
Keeping rules is a challenge for all of us – certainly I am guilty of breaking a few! I grew up on a rural farm and we didn’t roam the streets freely as you might see children doing these days so we always stayed close to home. However I remember being invited to a party at 17 and being allowed to go on the condition I was back by 10! Of course the party had hardly started by 10 and it was with great reluctance I dragged myself away. I remember heading up to my bedroom and then waiting for the house to fall silent – farmers always go to bed early as they have to be up early and I sneaked down the stairs avoiding the creaky floor boards and rode my bicycle back to the party! Well it wasn’t that exciting after all and thankfully I snuck back home and nobody was any wiser!
For me it is with some relief that God often chooses flawed individuals to be his disciples. Paul, David, Gideon, Peter all had their struggles and it is worth noting Paul describes evil is right there beside him – so we should not think our battle with sin is only for ourself – we all have this challenge.
So there is an ongoing a battle with sin and the reality is we do not have the strength in ourselves to win the battle – we simply don’t have the ability. But here is the good point – God recognised this battle and he won it for us. By sending his son he freed us from this battle of sin.
I love Pauls honesty in his letters – verse 22 – I delight in Gods law – but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am.
What a wretched man I am. How many other people think that? Who feels the condemnation of their own in James Wrights words “yuck”. They are simply not good enough and believe their Christian lives fall short. It is certainly a conversation that the devil has with me – certainly one that has been had in the preparation of this sermon. Look at those people – they are much holier than you – they are what a true Christian is – you are not as good as them – are you really a Christian – surely you need to be like them.
We have some amazing friends John and Kath. Kath was on my corridor at University and both Karen and I knew her through Scripture Union. I think Kath and I would have described ourselves as the worst Christina Union hall reps ever. John and Kath a few years ago gave up their jobs and moved to Madagascar to work with single Mums in truly desperate conditions and they are making a massive difference in these Womens lives. They also adopted baby Erica who needed urgent live saving surgery to save her and what a blessing she has been. Amazing people carrying out really important work and I would love them to come and speak to us when they are next back in the UK.
But the devil is there on my shoulder – you are not good enough – you have too much sin in your life.
But Paul deals with this in 5 simple words “There is now no condemnation”.
Paul says in verse 3
There is no condemnation. How many parents have had a child beat themselves up over something they have done wrong? Ok they may have been told off by the parent but it is quickly forgiven and everything forgotten but the child cannot forgive themselves. As a parent you just want them to learn and then move on with their lives and then leave it in the past
This is what Jesus wants for us. We are completely forgiven – there is no sin left – it is completely dealt with – done and finished, he came and gave his life for us so there is no need for us to chastise ourselves by our sinful nature. He doesn’t want us to keep raking up the past, it is forgiven and forgotten – it is time to move on and not invest any more time it it. We have been fully released from sins grip. Jesus died for us, our sin has been paid for and God wants us to focus on the future and on our relationship with him.
This week I was thinking about the worship songs that would go with this sermon and I came across no actually God gave me this song from Cody Carnes called “Run to the Father” which fits so perfectly. I would encourage you all to listen to it after the service and we will attach a link.
The first verse lyrics are
I’ve carried a burden for too long on my own
I wasn’t created to bear it alone
I hear Your invitation
To let it all go
I see it now
I’m laying it down
And I know that I need You
I asked at the beginning “do you really know that you have been saved from sin”.
We have a father God who is completely interested in us and wants to have a meaningful relationship with us. The battle is won, He gave up his son to win it, we are completely forgiven, 100% forgiven, forgiven to our very core so no need to focus on our sin we can now focus our lives on having a relationship with him.
What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 7:7–8:9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.