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*IN NOMINE JESU* Pentecost 5, July 5th, 2020, Pastor Joe Asher, Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church, “The Struggle with Sin.” Romans 7:14- 8:2
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 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. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 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. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 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.
Life in the Spirit
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
If I were to ask one hundred New Testament scholars to list the five most difficult passages to teach in all of God’s Word, most of them would include the Romans 7 text before you on your bulletin insert. So, I’m going to give you fair warning that the theology in today’s reading requires all of us to give our best effort and hard work in understanding what it means to live as a Christian.
Paul begins this portion of his letter to Rome by using himself as the example as he presents the case that Christians are verse 14-
…of the flesh, sold under sin.
This is a sobering, harsh, and cheerless commentary on our sinful condition. The great apostle wants us to understand that apart from Jesus our Savior, we are sinners who are lost, and we deserve God’s righteous judgement.
And further, in our day-to-day existence we continue to sin and oppose God’s Word and will. Paul writes in verse 15-
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 wants us to clearly see how the Christian daily and constantly struggles with sin. And we need to appreciate the fact that the apostle is truthful about battling his own sinful nature. And his example connects with our own lives, because we know we have the same fallen human condition.
After all, every Christian wants to do God’s will. Every Christian wants to live a life pleasing to God. As followers of Jesus, we all want to stop sinning. But Paul summarizes humanity’s miserable state when he says in verse 18-
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.
In other words, Paul admits that he, himself, is unable to win the battle against his own sinful flesh. (He is in spiritual warfare, and this is a LOSING contest!) And this illustrates the truth that in this world, sin will always corrupt all of our thoughts, words, and actions, and in this life, in our own effort, we cannot free ourselves from the sin that drags us down and condemns us before our holy God.
This is a miserable situation because as Christians, we know what God expects of us… for we read God’s Word and know His holy standard and what He wants. And we are miserable all the more because we want to do God’s will since we can clearly see His love for us in the salvation He has provided for us through Christ on the cross.
But here is the problem… because we are sinners, and because of our sinful nature, in this life we can’t perfectly live up to God’s righteous standard no matter how hard we try.
In today’s reading, you can hear Paul’s utter frustration with his sinful condition in verse 19-
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
What Paul describes in Romans 7 is how each Christian lives each day.
When we know Christ as Lord and Savior, and when we see that Jesus has died in our place on the cross, and risen from the dead to win forgiveness of sins, peace, and eternal life for all who trust Him in faith, and when Christians know the Savior Jesus, we want to live for Christ and stop our sin and unrighteous living, and we want to honor our God with everything we say and do.
But today’s reading gives us Paul’s understanding of sin. In this fallen world, we are never going to be rid of sin. And every week we have to appear before our God and once again confess that we are, in truth, “poor, miserable sinners.” We confess that we constantly struggle with pride, and selfishness, and anger. Beyond this, we acknowledge that we put other gods before our Lord, constantly elevating work or career above Him, or we chase after recreation and entertainment and make them gods, or we have our private luxuries which require our attention… while at the same time our living God who loves us and saves us is often forgotten.
And now, we are again in God’s house and we have to confess that little has changed over the last week, or year, or decade in our lives, and that we are still “poor miserable sinners” before our God. And like the apostle Paul, we have to acknowledge that we can’t shake our sin problem, because sin dwells within us, for we are- verse 14-
…sold under sin.
And verse 20-
…captive to the law of sin that dwells in (our) members.
Paul is here describing the reality that there is a duality present in every Christian. In other words, believers have two sides which compose our spiritual make-up. On the one side, we are redeemed children of God who want to live holy lives in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is another side to us. Our sinful nature actually enjoys sin and rebellion to God.
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther used a Latin phrase to describe this miserable duality we live with. The Great Reformer termed it-
…simul justus et peccator…
- Simul– simultaneously
- Justus– just/ righteous/ or a “saint”
- Et– and
- Peccator– sinner
And here is Luther’s point- the Christian lives in this world as both Saint and Sinner at the same time. And this means that there is a constant battle (spiritual warfare) within us over who we will serve… either Christ or self and the enemy. This is a wretched battle which often drains us of all joy and strength. So, with Paul, we plead with the Lord, verse 24-
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
As fallen human beings corrupted by sin, we need a Savior. For sin and death are always linked together, and there is no escape unless God provides us His rescue. Our key to victory in the struggle against sin is found in the very promise of God Himself. That promise of God came in flesh and blood in the Savior Jesus.
So when we sin, our hope is in Christ. And for believers, when we fall in sin over and over again, our hope is still in Christ.
And this is how it happens… God extends His grace (underserved love) to us in His Son, and when we receive Jesus by faith, we are linked to the Savior, and God counts faith in Him as righteousness. This foundational truth is found in the Luther’s great Reformation passage, Romans 1:17-
The righteous (ones) will live by faith.
And this gives believers great comfort because when we come before our Lord for the one thousandth time, confessing the same sin where we’ve failed over and over, God still sees our heart and our faith in Jesus, and God counts our faith as righteousness.
And that is why Paul can conclude todays Romans 7 reading this way-
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
The spiritual warfare we daily face is our reality in this world. We feel the attack of the enemy and we despair that we fall into sin and constantly lose to the devil, the world, and our own flesh.
But there is another reality. God has not abandoned us in this fight. He has given us His Holy Spirit, and Christ is always with us (Matthew 28:20). Further, we have the Word of God and the Sacraments (the Means of Grace) to strengthen us in the warfare we face.
And finally, we must never lose sight of the fact that our victory over sin is guaranteed in our risen Savior Jesus Christ.
And that takes us to Paul’s conclusion on this whole matter- Romans 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
+Sola Deo Gloria+
KELC- Prayers of the Congregation- Pentecost 4- 7/5/20
Dear heavenly Father– We confess that we struggle in this fallen world with the sin that so easily entangles us. So we thank You that You have not abandoned us in this fight. We pray that You would send us Your Holy Spirit so that we may successfully battle the devil, the world, and our own flesh. And further we pray that You would always keep Jesus before our eyes, because He is our Strength and our Redeemer.
Lord in Your mercy……………………………….. Hear our Prayer.
Blessed Jesus Christ, we pray that You would keep our eyes always on Your cross, so that we may be delivered from the guilt of our sin. Make us confident in the fact that there is no condemnation for all who trust in You, for You alone are our Strength and our Redeemer.
Lord in Your mercy………………………………… Hear our prayer.
Almighty Holy Spirit, with the Triune God we worship You in Spirit and in Truth. Preserve our faith in trying times, and grant us your peace as we live out our lives in this fallen world.
Lord in Your mercy……………………………….. Hear our prayer.
Finally, Heavenly Father, in our families and among our friends and co-workers there are many who are in need of Your care. For all who are sick, hospitalized, unemployed, lonely, away on duty assignments, and for all other needs, we name our loved ones in our hearts before you now………………………….
Lord in Your mercy/ hear our prayer.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.