June 14, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 7)

Submitted by Ben P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 7

        Being under the power and control of sin

o   vv. 1-6 We are no longer under the power and control of sin—just like the marriage vow which has power and authority over someone as long as their spouse is living, but releases them when that person has passed away, we who have been counted “dead to the law” are able to then “remarry,” and that new vow is to God. We were at one point “controlled by the sinful nature,” but now that we have died to the law, as the deeds demanded by the law are no longer the means by which I will gain my righteousness, I am able to “serve in the new way of the Spirit,” submitting myself to righteousness.

        The struggle between good and evil within us

o   vv. 14-23 It’s amazing how accurately Paul captures the human condition. It’s as if there is in me two different people—one who responds to the things that are good, to the things that are holy, God’s laws. There is in me something that soars with aspirations to be a loving and sacrificial husband to my wife and children, to be humble about my mistakes, to be honest and not paranoid when people ask seemingly probing questions about my actions. I want to be someone, rather, I fancy myself to be someone whose true focus of his life is kingdom work and not my own selfish comforts and goals. But when the rubber meets the road, when the true test of real life actually come my way, the other person comes out. In real life, outside the confines of my lofty self-predictions, I fall far short of my aspirations, so often I behave in the exact opposite of how want to be. I snap at my wife and kids, I get angry over petty things, I fear talking to people whom I’m not sure think highly of me, I hesitate when ministry seems to ask of me more than I am ready or willing to give. When it comes to the actual person that gets lived out through this body of mine, it’s nowhere near the person I wish to be. And Paul says it more simply: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

Personal Application

The fact that I am no longer bound by the law that I fail to meet, this is the implication: that as a Christian, it is unbiblical to fall into despair about my sin. These words, which I’ve said to myself before many times, are all lies: “It’s hopeless, I’ll always be this way, I’ll never change with regards to the sin of my pride, it’s too hard to fight against my fears of people’s disapproval, I’m going to fail in my struggles of the flesh yet again.” These are actually lies that are told to me by Satan to try to keep me thinking that I’m imprisoned by the law and its condemnation, when I’ve actually been set free. Sin is no longer my master, and I do not need to obey it. It is a powerfully hopeful truth. As I get older one of the things that I learn is how deeply entrenched some of my sins really are. Sins which involve my desire for comfort and a relaxed life, my lack of patience as I get angry at small perceived slights and frustrations, my wariness of others as I try to get on their good side and manage their view of me, as I struggle against them, I find that these things are so deeply ingrained in the way that I think and operate, that I am sometimes not even aware that I’m falling into them. And sometimes, usually after an incident of seeing myself acting in the same way yet again, I can be tempted to say, “is this really worth it, if I keep sinning, to struggle against all of this?” And here are the words that I need to hear and cling on to—yes, I am a law breaker, but the law and the sin that it arouses is no longer my master, and I can keep struggling against it, with the hope that my “righteousness” isn’t tied to that but to my faith in Christ.

Another point of hope comes from this picture of war within myself. It is a fact that there is a war within, that I’m conflicted between my sinful nature and my desire to follow God and do what is right. It’s tiring, and it’s only going to let up once I’m in heaven. But taking a step back to look at the picture, at least there is a war. As we learn in Survival Kit 1, the salmon that is swimming upstream is alive, the one that is floating downstream is no longer. The fact that there are two natures to deal with, the fact that there is conflict and struggle, this is a sign of life. When I was younger and just starting to deal with the reality of my sinfulness this was an issue that I had to squarely face. I was not genuinely struggling against my sins. Actually, most of the time I was pretty blind to my sinfulness, and I claimed to be a “pretty good person” in my heart for a long time. And even when I got glimpses of myself, when I saw that I was proud, annoying, selfish, lustful, boastful, I would think that just doing what was right next time, promising to myself and to God, I could make up for my sin, I could wipe my slate clean and maintain my innocence before God. Now, having understood my sinfulness and having chosen to become God’s servant, I struggle with the sinful person that is within me. I may not always act in the way that is right, but I can take hope because I know that even the existence of this struggle means that I’m alive, that I’m moving in the right direction. Paul’s picture that human nature is messed up, has a dual-personality, and it seems like war at times, this is true, but I don’t want to imagine what it would look like if I just let my sinful nature win. I shudder to think of the kind of person that I would be, completely enslaved to my appetites, self-loving, clueless, without purpose or meaning in life, and ultimately separated from God. This is not the person that I want to become. And so this gives me hope, that struggling with my sinful nature, means that I still honor God. I want to struggle all the more with the things with my sins, refusing to let myself settle with an attitude of despair or “that’s good enough.”

Submitted by Helen P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 7

Being under the power and control of sin

The law points to the fact that we are sinners.  When we are chained and controlled by the sinful nature, our sinful passions and desires are all that we know.  Unbeknownst to us we are under the power and control of sin and its consequences.  I imagine an animal that is chained and in view of its predator.  When we are driven by our sinful nature, we are essentially being led to death.  I think about people who are enslaved to their sinful desires, whether it be giving into their laziness, sexual desires, comfort, anger/rage problems, etc, and the consequence of giving into such desires is more and more sin, darkness and depravity. But through the new way of the Spirit, through the death of Christ Jesus in our stead, we no longer need to be controlled by the written law. Our destiny no longer is death; rather we can be released from the power of sin and death, released from the law that condemns us.

The struggle between good and evil within us

In order for our lives to matter and have meaning, there needs to be a standard and that standard comes from the law.  That’s the terrible bind that we’re in though. It’s this law that condemns us.  We are able to see and acknowledge what is right, honorable, and good.  We want to even do it, but we find ourselves doing just the opposite, or we find that we aren’t able to actually live out what we want to do.  This paradox that we live is so aptly described in these verses:

Romans 7:15-19 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

As a Christian, I have my sinful nature as well as my new nature within me and they are in constant battle with one another. Our human nature is a slave to sin.  We are seduced by sin.  But at the same time, we know what is good and we want to do it.  As someone put it “at one and the same time we are haunted by goodness and haunted by sin.”  I don’t understand what I do sometimes.  What I want to do, I do not do, but it’s what I don’t want to do that I keep doing. It’s frustrating because I know what I ought to do, and often times I have the desire to do it, but when it comes time to actually act it out, I don’t do it.

Our need for a Savior who can rescue us

We are so practiced in putting up a front, trying so hard to show that we have our lives put together, and proving that things are “OK”.  But what is really going on?  Reality is that when we look past the thin veneer of niceness and all the good things that we do on the outside, and take a look at what is in the heart, we are wretched, sinful, fleshly beings.

Mark 7:20-23 states, 20 …“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed,malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”  This is so true! What a wretched person I am!!  This is indeed the cry of our hearts.  We look to other people or try to do more things to try to cover up our sins or to find salvation within the self. But no matter how much we try, what remains is still the deceitfulness and the sinfulness of our hearts.  So who then can rescue us from this body of sin and death?

Romans 7:25 claims, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It’s through Jesus Christ.  When we acknowledge the truth that we are helpless against our own sinfulness, and that we cannot help or save ourselves from our own sinfulness, then and only then can we see that the Gospel is indeed “good news.” God sees that we are helpless and hopeless if left to ourselves in our sins.  He didn’t abandon us to face the consequences of our sins on our own but he came to reveal Himself to us through Jesus Christ and to rescue us through his blood shed for us on the cross!

Personal Application

Verses 15-19 describe so perfectly that internal struggle that I find myself going through on a daily basis.  What I want to do I do not do, but what I don’t want to do, what I hate, that’s what I find myself doing.  This manifests in my life in different ways.  It comes in the form of giving into my fears–fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fears that come with being a mom of two boys, fear of being in a position of leading and guiding people spiritually, fear of making mistakes, fear of condemnation when I confess, fear of people and what they think of me.  The fears are endless. Time and time again, I tell myself  “I am not going to give into these fears and allow them to control me.  I have no reason to fear. I experience grace when I confess. God says in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Yet as I live out my life, I find myself doing the very thing that I said that I wasn’t going to do.  The fears get the best of me, causing me to feel anxious or unsettled.

Or when I know that I have to have a difficult conversation with someone, to reconcile a relationship, and instead of being upfront and speaking the truth, or expressing how I really feel, I get intimidated, I give into emotional comfort and allow the relationship to become cool.  I pray about what’s going on in my heart, I honestly tell God how I feel, ask God to give me the strength to talk to the person that I need to reconcile with, I even play out how the conversation is going to go and what exactly I want to say to them.  I’m ready to make things right in the relationship and clear the air, but when it actually comes to have the talk, I make excuses, or I let the opportunity pass.  “I have the desire to do what is good and right, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do.”  Satan tries anything to bring division in relationships and to stop the work of God from happening in my life.  That’s what sin is.

As I minister to people, I see the depravity of the human condition.  I see people giving into their base, fleshly desires, falling into addictions wanting to run away from the worries and concerns of life, people feeling despair, cynicism, hopeless and depression, not wanting to continue on with life because life is too stressful and complicated and that leading to wanting to end life.  As I think about the sins that plague me day in and day out, and the sins that are all around me in the people that I care about, my cry in my prayers is indeed, ‘What a wretched man I am! Who can rescue me from this body of death? Who can rescue these people from their darkness and hopelessness?  We need a Savior!”  The answer is in today’s text, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  This is the good news of the Gospel!  Jesus Christ is the one who rescues us. Praise God for His incredible mercy and for the salvation that He offers us!

As I go through life, until I die, I’m going to face this struggle of wanting to do good but experiencing evil within me.  As a Christian and a spiritual leader to people that God has entrusted to me, I am going to witness Satan doing whatever he can to stop the work of God from happening in people’s lives.  Satan hates life; he’s into destruction, sin, and death.  I pray that instead of crippling when confronted with evil and temptation, I will claim the truth that despite sin within, I can have hope and salvation because Jesus Christ.

Submitted by Steve P. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

        Being under the power and control of sin

Apostle Paul makes it clear that my ‘sin’ isn’t merely a character flaw, an immaturity, or a bad habit, but it is in fact a malevolent force inside me. Sin is described as seizing the opportunity to produce in me every covetous desire to put me to death. In verse 14, Apostle Paul returns to the imagery he used at the end of chapter 6, saying how we are sold as slaves to sin. He uses this imagery to illustrate how we are “weak in our natural selves” (6:19).

When it comes to my own struggles against sin, I want to think that I can “fix myself” and that I have enough willpower to keep myself from sinning. I make resolves to fight my sin and “fix myself.” For instance, to fight my pride, I’ll resolve to not boast and not respond to my desire to always clear my name and make myself look better. To fight my emotional and mental laziness, I’ll resolve to get up early to do daily devotion and spend time each morning to think about and pray for my students. To fight my insecurity, I’ll resolve to get to know and build stronger relationships with my loved ones, peers, my leaders, and my students. I’ll make tons of resolves to fight against temptations, my competitiveness, everything. And already I begin to treat my sins as if they’re simply bad habits that I can fix by replacing them with better habits.

However, this view of myself and of my sin is what Apostle Paul is writing against. My sin isn’t some passive choice that I can so easily chose against. Rather, it is a malevolent force that I must fight. And to think that I can so easily change myself on my own power is my pride–I want to think that I’m still ultimately in power and in control. But I am a slave to my sin–I am too weak in my natural self to “fix” myself. This is why, after all these years of being a Christian, I still need to struggle: sin is in power and in control over my flesh. Sin is the law at work in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind (v. 23).

        The struggle between good and evil within us

In our natural bodies it is clear who is in power and who has control. What Apostle Paul describes in verses 15-20 rings true to my own life as well: “What I do is not the good I want to do, and the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” This is my active, malevolent sinful nature warring against me. Even when I was ignorant about the law, sin was already at work in me. But even now, as I know right and wrong and what I should do and what I shouldn’t do, I find that I cannot keep myself from sinning. It’s not merely a matter of knowing enough, about grasping some intellectual insight, or about how strong my willpower is. I want to be more loving and less proud, but even this I cannot keep my resolve for even one day. I still keep returning to the sin that I know. This is how I know that I am a slave in my natural self to sin – the more I sin, the harder of a master and driver it becomes.

What Apostle Paul describes I know very well. I know intellectually that I should love God with all my heart and mind and strength, and that I should love others as myself. But in my body, I find myself living a very different life. Even when I know that what I am doing is wrong, I still find myself doing it. The desire to do good is in me, but evil is there beside me waging against that desire. For instance, I am called to love God with all my mind and thoughts, and I desire that my mind may be pleasing and honoring to him. But I find in my thought life all kinds of evil – envy, lust, pride, deceit. I am also called to love others, and so I know that I need to be careful about my sarcasm and what I say because in my pride I can often end up saying things that can be offensive or hurtful to those I care about. But even as I know that I am called to love those God has entrusted to me, I find myself leaving my tongue unguarded and saying something that I later regret.

        Our need for a Savior who can rescue us

Every day I sin; every day my sin is before me. Every day there are things that I say and do and even more things that are left unsaid and undone that I regret. The struggle is never ending, and so I can understand Apostle Paul’s desperate cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” There have been several times when, after facing the same struggle and the same sin for several years, I want to give in to the temptation and say that I’ll never change and just give up.

The truth is that my sin is a malevolent force that I can’t fight on my own. I’m a slave in the sinful nature to sin. But also at work is God’s law. Even as I am still in sin, I can attest to the goodness of his law that is holy and righteous and good. Even as I am still in sin, I can affirm the words of God’s law that they are true. And this returns to the illustration from marriage that Apostle Paul begins the chapter with. “When we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit” (v. 5-6).

This is the starting point of the gospel–I can’t fix myself and I can’t save myself, but I don’t need to either. The law of sin was at work in me, and now through the body of Christ I have died to that law so that it no longer has authority over me. But now I can have the freedom of being a slave to God’s law (7:25-8:1). Through sharing in his death on the cross I have been rescued from this endless cycle of being overpowered and controlled by my sinful nature. Although I will continue to struggle with my sinful nature and I will have to continue to wage active war against it in my body, I know that my righteousness does not come from obedience but through the body of Christ and his resurrection.

Submitted by Betty H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 7

        Being under the power and control of sin

Before Christ, we were under the power and control of sin.  We were bond by our sinful nature and our predicament was death because the law condemns us (v. 5).  Being under the power and control of sin meant that we had no willpower over our sinful selves; we do the evil that we do not want to do, we give into our sinful desires and as a result bear the “fruit of death.”  But through Christ, those who have put their faith and trust in Him are no longer under the power and control of sin.  Rather, we are now under “the new way of the Spirit” (v. 6).  We died along with Christ when He died to the power and control of sin, and was also raised along with Christ He was raised from the dead and thus are no longer bound by sin and the way of death.

This is the predicament from which I’ve been saved.  Before Christ, I was under the power and control of sin.  I was bound by my sinful nature and my predicament was death.  I had no willpower over my sinful self.  My experience and struggle against sin had shown me how little willpower I had to do the good that I wanted to do.  The evil that I did not want to do I did and I gave myself into my sinful nature.  My life was in a downward spiral and I bore “the fruit of death”.  But thanks be to God, He intervened and I came to hear the gospel and put my trust in Christ through this community of faith.  Through Christ I have been released from the power and control that sin had over my life and now I serve “the new way of the Spirit” and “bear fruit to God”.

        The struggle between good and evil within us

The struggle between good and evil reside within all of us.  Though we know what is good and what is evil and want to do what is good, often we find that it is not as simple as knowing what is good, wanting to do it and then being able to carry it out.  In fact, what we find is that the evil that we do not want to do are the very things we keep on doing.  Try as we might we are not able to carry out the good that we intend to do but keep doing the evil that we do not intend to do.  Apostle Paul calls this struggle between good and evil “war” (v. 23) and declares himself the “prisoner of the law of sin” that is at work in his body.  And through his word and our own experience, we find that we are actually powerless against our sinful nature, “unspiritual” and “sold as a slave to sin” (v. 14).

This dispels the notion that I can simply do good if I set my mind to it, and I can stop sinning or doing evil if I try hard enough.  Sheer willpower will not cut it because sin takes on a life of its own and works through “the members of my body” and defeats my mind, my good intentions.  No, the battle between good and evil occurs in my very own being and sin wins.  In this wretched state I need outside intervention and not just something mustered up within me, because what is within me is weak and cannot win in this struggle against good and evil.

        Our need for a Savior who can rescue us

God provided the outside intervention to save me from my losing battle against sin that I so desperately need.  This is the simple gospel truth that I come back to again and again.  When I want to despair because of my own sinfulness, I examine whether I have been seeking intervention within myself or if I have been looking to Christ.  Often times I find that I have actually been looking to myself, trying desperately to change based on my own willpower that had proven to fail so many times.  I simply am not able to muster up enough willpower to do good; even when I am able to it is only for a short period of time.  Struggling against sin on my own would only bring despair but through putting my trust in Christ I can actually experience victory over my sins because He was sinless but He died for my sins, paid the price for my punishment of sin required by law and was raised back to life.  Through Christ I have hope and life, I have freedom from the bounds and control from sin through sharing in His death and resurrection.  Truly I can, along with Apostle Paul, exclaim praise and thanks to God for rescuing me from this body of death through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Submitted by Tom K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 7

At the core, I know I’m not perfect, but then again I don’t believe I’m that bad. I feel like I’m in the middle of the moral scale, maybe even above average. Yeah I got some bad habits and character issues, but aside from that I feel like I’m an ok person. But the truth is that I sin because I’m a sinner who has a sinful nature. I’m not an ok person who happens to commits sins. No, at the core there is evil in me and it seems to control me.  I find myself doing things I don’t want to do. I hate when I think about the commitments I made during a retreat only to fail within weeks.

Sometimes I get uncomfortable reading Romans 7. This chapter exposes my biggest secret: I’m a hypocrite. And if I’m honest …I’m a pretty big hypocrite. Throughout the day I watch what I say and do and on the outside it seems like I’m a decent person in the eyes of my students and co-workers. I genuinely want to serve and honor God. I want to be obedient and do the things that please God. The one secret I know that no one else knows is what’s really in my mind. It makes me cringe at how bad it is; so many of my thoughts get filtered out because it would be unacceptable and inappropriate if I were to freely vocalize everything.

How I wish I was perfectly consistent in my spiritual life. Over the past 10 years I definitely grew and am continuing to grow in this area. However, there are just days my heart isn’t there and to my frustration, I can’t figure out why. I’ll show up to prayer meeting, bible study, daily devotion, or some other discipline and it seems like I have all kinds of other thoughts filling my mind when I try to focus. I feel restless and unable to concentrate. I’ll excuse it away since I had a hectic day at work and my mind is all over the place. Is that really the case? I know earlier that day when I was wasting time on some tech website I was fully engaged and attentive. If it’s has to do with one of my hobbies/interests I’ll be fully attentive and excited to read about the latest gadget. Put a bible on my desk that same day, my mind will wander within 10 minutes. When it comes to spiritual matters there are days it seems like my mind is very hostile and resistant. The apostle Paul says in v23: “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” I don’t know how else to describe what’s happening to me on those days. It’s like something is fighting me and making it hard for me to engage the Word or prayer. I become a prisoner to sin and want to give in to my desires and be comfortable.

It’s truly spiritual warfare and there are plenty of days I feel like I’m losing. To make matters worse there is a sense of guilt and frustration that I am just owned by sin. I feel like a worthless hypocrite and what do I want to do next? I want to hide and cover up my sin. All too often that seems so natural and right in my mind. I want to appear like I have it all together like everyone else. I don’t want to talk about my anger, bitterness, unforgiving heart, lust, greed, and idolatry.  Unconfessed sin is the perfect weapon for Satan to keep me a prisoner to sin. I feel shame, guilt, and fear that keep me distant from God. From there I get trapped into this cycle of guilt and fear that keeps my heart cold to God leading to more guilt and fear.  The prognosis isn’t good: I’m a proud, deceptive hypocrite who stumbles in and out of sin. What a wretched man I am indeed!

But that’s not where the story ends! As it is written:  “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Yes, I’m a proud, deceptive hypocrite who stumbles in and out of sin, but I’m still forgiven and loved by Jesus. How amazing is that! The thing that paralyses me spiritually is the guilt of my sin. I can’t escape it, but through Jesus I experience true freedom.  There’s nothing like the feeling of finally coming clean about an issue and the relief that comes after. I feel light and free. I can’t help but smile. I know my sins are fully cleansed and I don’t have to fear anymore. I know I’m loved by God. I can dare to be confident that I’m forgiven and accepted by God and choose to no longer live in fear or guilt! As long as I live, I know I will war against sin and I know there will be good and bad days. I also know that when I do fall, I can receive forgiveness and get right back up and keep running. That has given me so much hope when I used to get so down on myself at how often I sin.

Personal Application:

The truth of Romans 7 is universal: we all don’t do the things we know we should do and we all do the things we hate doing. I’m not the only one who struggles. It’s my pride that wants me to appear like I have everything all together and that I’m not as bad as I really am. There’s no reason to want to hide because we all alike are under the same struggle. I can be honest about my sins and confess them to others. It’s a very strong temptation to dismiss my sins because I’m so proud. Whenever I choose to remain silent, sin just continues to ravage me. If someone like the apostle Paul struggles with sin, it’s not surprising that I would too. I have this false expectation that as I grow, I will become more and more sinless. I feel even more ashamed at sins I still struggle with after all these years. I feel like I should have outgrown them by now. Again the temptation to remain silent about it becomes strong and I want to appear spiritual. It gives me hope that apostle Paul can struggle where he is, but he is still used powerfully by God. I feel like I’m not worthy to be used because of my persistent sinfulness and it hinders me.

I know there is a law that is at work against my mind and that it’s spiritual warfare.  I’m not unaware of what’s going on: Satan is distracting me and making my heart cold. Paul’s solution in this text is our rescuer, Jesus Christ our Lord. Instead of being passive, I need to pray when my heart begins to cool or wander. There’s something at work AGAINST me and so I need something at work FOR me. I need Jesus to fight for me so that I’m able to do what I want to do and not do what I don’t want to do. It’s often in the form of a prayer: “Lord Jesus, please make my heart soft to you. I pray for your spirit and presence in this time. Please dwell in me.”

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