Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

Romans 8:29-32

In Romans 8:29-32 Paul continues by connecting the dots to the prior verse where God promises to use all things to work together for good. Why? Because God is working in us and through us to conform us to become like Jesus. This verse tells us God ‘foreknew’ us. Other versions say we are predestined, called, justified, or glorified. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” God doesn’t do it for us however. It’s his eternal plan, but we have to participate and do our part.

Smith talks about our being foreknown this way. “Of course I believe in predestination, since it’s plainly taught in the Scriptures. The doctrine could be assumed, even if the word was never explicitly used. It’s a thrilling truth that doesn’t upset me at all. The fact that He chose me and began a good work in me proves that He’ll continue to perform it. He wouldn’t bring me this far and then dump me.” God helps us conform to Christ’s image with our cooperation. He doesn’t do it for us. He doesn’t do it to us. He will do it with us. And that gives us quite a great outcome. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

If all we had were the first few chapters of the Book of Romans, some might believe that God was against us. Now that Paul has shown the lengths that God went to save man from His wrath and equip him for victory over sin and death, who can doubt that God is for us? “ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Most all men say or think that God is for them – terrorists commit horrible crimes thinking that God is for them. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit guards this statement with an “if,” so we may know that just because a man thinks God is with him does not make it so. God is only for us if we are reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.

God has already given us the ultimate gift when He sent Christ to the cross.  There should be no question that He will provide all we need be it big or small. God held nothing back when it came to making a way for us to be in an eternal place with Him. He didn’t have to. Our future could have been based on how we lived in comparison to His law. But we would have all failed the test and missed the mark. So He made a way. It cost Him His Son, but He gave it for us gladly. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  We can trust Him to take care of all our other needs based on His faithful love for us.

Advertisements

Romans 8:1-3

In Romans 8:1-3 Paul reminds us of the simple declaration that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. It isn’t just a limited condemnation – the word Paul uses here is NO – none, nada, zip. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Since God the Father does not condemn Jesus, neither can the Father condemn those who are in Jesus. They are not condemned, they will not be condemned, and they cannot be condemned. Not a little, not a lot, not at all! If we are one with Jesus and He is our head, we can’t be condemned. You can’t acquit the head and condemn the hand.

The verdict is not “less condemnation.” That’s where many believe they are – thinking our standing has improved in Jesus. It has not been improved, it’s been completely transformed, changed to a status of no condemnation. However, if you are not in Jesus Christ, there is condemnation for you. Spurgeon wrote “It is no pleasant task to us to have to speak of this matter; but who are we that we should ask for pleasant tasks? If you are not in Christ Jesus, and are walking after the flesh, you have not escaped from condemnation.” It’s that black and white – you are either free from condemnation because of Jesus, or you are condemned. Sin will cause that to be true for all who do not know Christ and the grace of His sacrifice.

To be clear, we certainly deserve condemnation. Our freedom from it is not something we earn or work to receive. We are gifted this standing because Jesus bore the condemnation we deserved through His death on the Cross, and our identity is now in Him. As He is condemned no more, neither are we. Jesus death, burial and resurrection sets us free from the penalty of sin and changes the outcome at death. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” As Christ Followers, we are free from the law of sin. Though we inevitably fail, the Christian does not have to sin, because he is freed from sin’s dominion. We are free from the law of death too; death therefore no longer has any lasting power against the believer.

The law can do many things. It can guide us, teach us, and tell us about God’s character. But the law cannot give us the ability to be obedient to God’s standards; it can give us the standard, but it can’t give us the power to please God. That only comes through our heart and the desire to walk in obedience as a Christ Follower. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.”  The law is weak because it speaks to our flesh. But the work of the Spirit transforms us by the putting off the old man and putting on the new man – a principle higher than the earthly body we have.

Romans 7:21-25

In Romans 7:21-25 Paul expresses his desperation around sin, and the perspective that we need to take based on the truth of God’s Word regarding sin. The enemy does not want us to live successfully in relationship to the law and it’s opposite – sin. The more we learn about God’s law and what He desires for us as Christ Followers, the more the enemy is there to tempt us and do all he can to derail us from obedience. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” Good and evil are never far apart. Paul wanted to do right – to please God in every way – but even a man of his spiritual maturity struggled with sin.

What hope do we have? We can learn to do some basic things that give us a better chance of living victoriously in our walk with Christ. Paul was not only in the Word – he took delight in it. He made it part of who he was through reading, study, memorization and meditation. He heard it preached and read. “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Even with those spiritual disciplines, it is a battle to keep the law top of mind and sin pushed aside.

Paul expresses just how hard the battle with sin really is. He is completely worn out and wretched because of his unsuccessful effort to please God under the principle of Law. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The entire tone of Paul’s statement shows that he is desperate for deliverance. He is overwhelmed with a sense of his own powerlessness and sinfulness. We must come to the same place of desperation to find victory. God has provided a way to victory through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary. God knows we can’t make it on our own strength, so He made a way through Christ.

Paul’s perspective turns to something outside the battle he was waging on his own. In the pit of his unsuccessful struggle against sin, Paul became entirely self-focused and self-obsessed. This is the place of any believer living under law, who looks to self and personal performance rather than looking first to Jesus. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Paul shows that even though the law is glorious and good, it can’t save us – and we need a Savior. Paul never found any peace, any praising of God until he looked outside of himself and beyond the law to his Savior, Jesus Christ.

Here is the reality for us regarding salvation as written by David Guzik:

  1. You thought the problem was that you didn’t know what to do to save yourself – but the law came as a teacher, taught you what to do and you still couldn’t do it. You don’t need a teacher, you need a Savior.
  2. You thought the problem was that you weren’t motivated enough, but the law came in like a coach to encourage you on to do what you need to do and you still didn’t do it. You don’t need a coach or a motivational speaker, you need a Savior.
  3. You thought the problem was that you didn’t know yourself well enough. But the law came in like a doctor and perfectly diagnosed your sin problem but the law couldn’t heal you. You don’t need a doctor, you need a Savior.

You need Jesus. Have you invited Him into your life?

Romans 7:16-20

In Romans 7:16-20 Paul tackles the reality of the battle between our two selves. Anyone who has tried to do good is aware of this struggle. We never know how hard it is to stop sinning until we try. C.S. Lewis said “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.” “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.” It is easy to know in our mind that God’s plan for us (the law) is good. His ways will always yield the best outcome. We can know in our head that the law is good and right and just, but that won’t mean we’ll live by it. That doesn’t guarantee obedience to God’s ways.

Paul knows that every one of us is pulled toward sin by our old nature. The old man is not the real Paul; the old man is dead. The flesh is not the real Paul; the flesh is destined to pass away and be resurrected. The new man is the real Paul; now Paul’s challenge is to live like God has made him. “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Paul is just a Christian struggling with sin. This experience of struggle and defeat around sin is something that most if not all Christian’s experience. The old nature never leaves us. We can only learn to overcome that old way through the power of Christ in our life.

Sin is at war within Paul and can sometimes win because there is no power in himself other than himself, to stop sinning if we take on sin in our own power. Paul is caught in the desperate powerlessness of trying to battle sin in the power of self. We will lose every time if we tackle our sin problem in our own strength. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” As Christ Followers, the Holy Spirit within us will give us the desire to be obedient, but the power has to come from there too. We can’t win this fight on our own.

Paul is fighting his old ways, and knows in his head how he should live. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” But the draw of sin to disobedience is strong, and if we aren’t constantly guarding against that pull, we’ll drift into the weeds and finally go into the ditch of sin. “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Paul tells us that sin draws us into disobedience, and that sin is alive and well within us. But sin is always a choice. It only happens when we allow sin to lead us into disobedience to God’s ways.

Romans 7:11-15

In Romans 7:11-15 Paul teaches us the purpose and character of the law. Though the law provokes our sin nature, this can be used for good because it more dramatically exposes our deep sinfulness. After all, if sin can use something as good as the law to its advantage in promoting evil, it shows how evil sin is. “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.”  We need sin to appear clearly as sin, because it always wants to hide from us and conceal its true outcome which is death. It is one of the biggest causes of damage in us because it injures us most by taking from us the ability to know just how much damage it will do.

The law isn’t the problem. It is holy and given by God to guide how we ought to live. “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” It is not the problem. It doesn’t cause the damage. Sin does that. “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing 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.” The law simply exposes the truth about sin. It gives us a measuring stick, so to say, that we can hold up against our life and see how short we fall. There is nothing in the world so bad as sin.

The law is God’s manual for life. It is spiritual and because of our sin, it really can’t help us beyond exposing how far we are from fulfilling it. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” Paul is in bondage under sin and the law can’t help him out. He is like a man arrested for a crime and thrown in jail. The law will only help him if he is innocent, but Paul knows that he is guilty and that the law argues against him, not for him. The law will never free us because we can’t keep it. We’ll always be guilty, although we may deceive ourselves into believing we are doing ok. We’re not as bad as others around us. But the measure of the law is not what others do, but how we stack up against God’s standards and we fail.

Paul’s problem isn’t a lack of desire – he wants to do what is right. His problem isn’t knowledge – he knows what the right thing is. His problem is a lack of power and will. He lacks power because the law gives no power, only condemnation. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul is not denying his responsibility as a sinner. He recognizes that as he sins, he acts against his nature as a new man in Jesus Christ. A Christian must own up to his sin, yet realize that the impulse to sin does not come from who we are in Jesus Christ. It comes when we let our old nature have control of our choices. We have to take control and serve our Savior Jesus Christ.

Romans 7:7-10

In Romans 7:7-10 Paul asks some clarifying questions about the law. “What then shall we say? That the law is sin?  If we follow the train of thought we can understand how someone might infer this. Paul insisted that we must die to the law if we will bear fruit to God. Someone must think, “Surely there is something wrong with the law!” He quickly answers the question:  By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” The law is like an x-ray machine; it reveals what is there but hidden. You can’t blame an x-ray for what it exposes. Neither can you blame the law for revealing the condition of our heart.

Paul describes the dynamic where the warning “Don’t do that!” may become a call to action because of our sinful, rebellious hearts. It isn’t the fault of the commandment, but it is our fault. “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” In American history, we know that the Prohibition Act didn’t stop drinking. In many ways it made drinking more attractive to people because of our desire to break boundaries set by the commandment. Once God draws a boundary for us, we are immediately enticed to cross that boundary – which is no fault of God or His boundary, but the fault of our sinful hearts.

The weakness of the law isn’t in the law – it is in us. Our hearts are so wicked that they can find opportunity for all manner of evil desire from something good like the law of God. Children can be innocent before they know or understand what law requires. This is what Paul refers to when he says I was alive once without the law. “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” When we do come to know the law, the law shows us our guilt and it excites our rebellion, bringing forth more sin and death. The law amplifies the sin that we are choosing.

Sin leads us into death. Sin does this by deception. Sin deceives us:

  • Because sin falsely promises satisfaction.
  • Because sin falsely claims an adequate excuse.
  • Because sin falsely promises an escape from punishment.

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” It isn’t the law that deceives us, but it is sin that leads us to disobedience. Sin, when followed, leads to death – not life. One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to get us to think of sin as something good that God wants to deprive us of. When God warns us to stay away from sin, He warns us away from something that will kill us.

Romans 7:1-6

In Romans 7:1-6 Paul explains how the law and grace work together. Paul has already told us that we are no longer under the law, but covered by grace should we choose it. But that doesn’t mean the law goes away or is no longer important. The law that has dominion over man includes the Law of Moses, but there is a broader principle of law communicated by creation and by conscience, and these also have dominion over a man. “Or do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to those who know the law–that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?” Paul makes the point that death ends all obligations and contracts, including the law of that day.

Paul makes his point by saying a wife is no longer bound to her husband if he dies because death ends that contract. If her husband dies, she is free from that law. “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.” Freedom from that marriage comes with death, but not if a married person violates the bond of marriage while both are alive. “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”

Paul carefully explained that we died with Jesus and we also rose with Him, although Paul there only spoke of our death to sin. Now he explains that we also died to the law.“ Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” We are not free from the law so we can live unto ourselves. We are free so we can belong to Jesus and can bear fruit to God. That is the outcome of a surrendered life as a Christ Follower – we bear fruit God’s way.

Under the law, we did not bear fruit to God. Instead we bore fruit to death, because of the passion of sin within us. “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” We only come fully to the place of bearing fruit for God when we are free from the law. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The law does not justify us; it does not make us right with God. The law does not sanctify us; it does not take us deeper with God and make us more holy before Him. It is only faith in Christ that will set us free and give us eternal life.

%d bloggers like this: