Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Who Will Deliver Me?

    In case you didn't know, I'm not perfect. Surprising, right? Despite what you may have thought, yes, I too sin. Daily. Hourly. And when we narrow the scope of sin to all those things done not for the glory of God, I sin minutely. Constantly. Sometimes sins I feel guilty about, others that shock myself with my callous attitude toward. Some are considered more major than others, others are so small most wouldn't even realize they're a sin. Nevertheless, I am a great sinner.

    Nearly every day, I shock myself at some point with my own callous treatment of other people. That I seem unmoved by some people's pain, or my own impatient, self-righteous treatment of others in day to day life. I'm ashamed of the thoughts that run through my mind, and even more ashamed of the ones I let lie there sometimes and fester when I know they're wrong. I'm ashamed of the words that sometimes spring to my lips, though I catch them before maybe they become audible words. I have been struggling with anger toward God for several weeks now, and the doubts keep coming up.

     I don't say that to ease my conscience by publicly airing my sin; I say that to simply point out that I have sin in my life that I struggle with daily and sometimes have victory over, other times don't. I don't speak this as someone looking back over my past when I used to sin but as someone who right now, today, sins.

     I've written from here before, but it never ceases to amaze me. The book of Romans is such a powerful book that unlocks the gospel of justification by grace through faith in such a way that leaves me utterly astounded by the God of such a gospel. Romans 1-6 explains man's depravity and God's grace in the clearest language in the Bible yet in more depth than anywhere else. Romans 7, Paul's drift changes from the theological concepts of salvation toward the practical living of the Christian life in 7-8.

     It's a long chunk of Scripture from Romans 7, but I think it's extremely pertinent to what I'm going to say and so I'm going to quote quite a long passage here.

     "For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For the good I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good."

      Did anyone else find themselves nodding, "wow, I couldn't have said that better myself, Paul!" That so accurately sums up where I am so often! With Christ in me, there is something in me that drives me toward desiring good and the Holy Spirit is at work sanctifying me and my desires, but there's something in me holding me back. Keeping me down, tempting me, and reminding me of my past failures. The good I want to do and in my head I purpose to do, I so often don't, and I instead practice the very things I detest! How?!

     It's because there is evil dwelling in me in the form of my flesh. There is a part of me that will tempt me and try to draw me back toward the temporary pleasures of sin, and there will be times I give into that side of me. Some seasons of my life, it seems like I never disregard those temptations; other times, I feel great times of victory.

     But what is Paul's answer? Try really hard? Give up? We can see what sounds like apparently hopelessness in Paul's writing here... This is totally me taking license with the Scripture here, but I like to imagine Paul writing this verse and then pausing for a moment overcome with emotion. He just reached the climatic build of man's horrid, desperate condition before God that he has been building through the entire book. I imagine Paul stopping for a moment to ponder the massive consequences of the one little verse.

     "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" That is the climax of the book of Romans. You can see the desperate emotion in Paul's words, the realized helplessness of men fighting against their sin nature alone. But Paul's next words ring out in victory that shatter the hopelessness of the previous verse.

     "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin. Therefore is there now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

     I feel like V from V for Vendetta, "Now for the crescendo!" That statement holds the despair and the victory of the gospel in one fell sweep. Who will set me free? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ! The answer is obviously in who he is thanking!

     Who will set us free from this slavery? Who will cancel the condemnation that comes with the flesh and the wretchedness of who I am? Who is it that will transform my very nature into something completely different, something pleasing to God through righteousness not mine? Jesus Christ.

     Who will set us free from the body of this death? Paul identifies it rightly as death, death in our own wretchedness... who will set us free from this condition? Jesus Christ! In Him, there is no condemnation. There is freedom. There is the power to do what is right. The power to fight victoriously against some of those temptations, against all of them. Will we fail sometimes? Yes. But the power is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

     Paul is on a roll as he launches into chapter 8. "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh... And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba, Father!'" 

     In Christ, we are not the same. Thank God, who I am is not defined by what I do but who lives through me. I have not received slavery; I have received adoption. I am defined by who God is through me. Blessed be His name!

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