A few months back I became captivated by Romans, chapters 5-8. Over the next several weeks I read it numerous times during my morning devotions. The reason was because it relates so much to me, as one who struggles with sin and temptation every day of my life.
Numerous times in chapter 6 the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are “dead” to sin.
“So do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more grace? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin?” (Romans 6:1-2 NCV)
“In the same way, you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive with God through Christ Jesus. So, do not let sin control your life here on earth so that you do what your sinful self wants to do.” (Romans 6:11-12 NCV)
Paul emphatically declares that when Jesus died on the cross, we who have placed our faith in Him died as well to the power of sin in our lives. And, because of that we are now free to live a new life.
Then in chapter 7 he moves on to the illustration of marriage, and how spouses are committed to one another for a lifetime, until one of them dies. Once one of them dies, the other is free to remarry. In verse 4 he parallels our “marriage” to the law with this analogy.
“In the same way, my brothers and sisters, your old selves died, and you became free from the law through the body of Christ. This happened so that you might belong to someone else—the One who was raised from the dead—and so that we might be used in service to God.” (Romans 7:4 NCV)
Then, after all this teaching about dying to sin and becoming free from the law, the Apostle Paul confesses with deep vulnerability…
“I do not understand the things I do, and I do the things I hate…Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things.” (Romans 7:15, 18-20)
Talk about gut honesty. The great Apostle Paul vulnerably shares his internal struggle against sin. There are days, some more than others, that I really resonate with Paul’s words in Romans 7. On the one hand I know (intellectually) that I have died to sin, and on the other hand I (experientially) face this intense battle with sin that seeks to destroy me. That is life on planet earth. Following Jesus and experiencing God’s best for you and me means fighting a daily battle against anything that attempts to replace God’s rightful place in our lives.
So, what’s the answer? It is found in chapter 8, where Paul gives the solution to our dilemma. It is the power of the Resurrection! He says,
“So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made you free from the law that brings sin and death. The law was without power, because the law was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son to earth with the human life that others use for sin. By sending his Son to be an offering for sin, God used a human life to destroy sin. He did this so that we could be the kind of people the law correctly wants us to be. Now we do not live following our sinful selves, but we live following the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 NCV)
Even though you and I face a daily battle against sin and temptation, the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead gives us forgiveness of sin as well as the ability to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to the daily promptings of His Spirit.
Recently, while attending a conference with Tony, I heard John Mark Comer talk about how the Holy Spirit works in our lives to bring about change. He said there are three components: (1) truth (2) practice and (3) community. I resonate with that. God’s Word provides the truth of how we are to live. We must choose to put it into practice as we make choices each day. And community provides the encouragement and accountability to bring it about. At the center, is the power of the resurrected Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit enabling us to change and become the people God created us to be.
Aren’t you grateful for the death of Jesus that conquered sin and death so you and I could be forgiven? Aren’t you grateful for the resurrection of Jesus that provides the power to live a new life? Thank God for His wonderful gift to us which we celebrate this weekend! No sacrifice could be greater. No power could be stronger. Thank you, Jesus!