Simultaneously Saint and Sinner (Romans 7:15-25)
Rev. Edwin Morrow
Today as we continue our epistle readings from Romans, we revisit our theme: The Righteous Shall Live by Faith.
In weeks gone by, we have rejoiced in these truths from Paul’s words from Romans:
God has declared you to be righteous through your faith in His Son Jesus.
God has declared us to be not guilty of your sins because of the blood of Jesus.
God has declared we are at peace with Him and have access to Him.
Great! Great! Great! And then, Romans 7 before us today.
On your way to heaven, everything will not always be great.
In this world we will experience much trial and tribulation.
Satan and the world will beat us up one side and down the other.
We will have to battle the external world.
A few weeks ago, Jesus said: “the world hates me it will hate you too.”
I watched and listened to a very beautiful lady the other day.
She was beautiful, but her words were pure evil.
Speaking on a number of things that we as Christians are opposed to, she cursed Christians.
She cursed the Bible as she said she is sick and tired of Christians telling me what the Bible says.
You can take your Bible and your religion and shove it.
Just get out of our lives.
As I have shared with you, vitriolic hatred of Christians is everywhere.
Yes, we will wage war with the world until Jesus returns.
But for today Paul speaks of the war within each Christian.
Let me paraphrase and summarize:
I am a Christian. I want to do what God wants me to do.
I know His commandments are good.
By keeping them all of us would be a lot better off.
God has given them to us to protect us from hurting and harming ourselves and others.
I know that, I know that, I know that, but I really don’t understand my actions!
The truth is, I am of flesh, and my flesh sells out to sin.
Sometimes I hate what I do, but it is not I who does it, it is sin that dwells within me.
Can you hear the anguish in Paul’s words?
Can you see the tears in his eyes?
This is not a copout.
Hey Lord, I have an excuse for all I do, so excuse me!
Paul is truly devastated by the many times he offends God and fails to be Christ-like.
Can you relate?
Do you struggle with ongoing sin as Paul did?
Does your ongoing sin bother you? Not just a little, but a lot?
Do you want to become more and more like Christ on your way to heaven?
If you say Yes, Yes, and Yes = great!
If you say No, No, and No = check your pulse to see if you are alive in Christ.
Paul was alive in Christ, and he knew very well the full range of things that he did (and we can do) to offend God and hurt others.
In Romans 1:29-31 we have one of Paul’s eight lists of sins found in his letters:
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree they still practice these things.
I am part of the They even after becoming a Christian, and I hate that.
I hope you recognize you are part of the They and you hate it too.
The thing I am most looking forward to in heaven is never, ever sinning against my Lord again.
Sexual sins, bad temper sins, greed sins, quarrelling sins, and tongue sins.
For me it is check, check, check, check, and check.
So many checks that I sometimes get to beating myself up.
But we should never, ever give into indwelling sin with a defeatist mentality.
One of my pastoral brothers in Christ wrote this: “Paul is not telling us that the life of the ‘wretched man’ is as bad as it could be, only that it is not as good as it can be. As we delight in the goodness of God’s Law and long to keep it perfectly, our inability to do so should trouble us acutely.”
The wretched man is all of us collectively voicing our distress over not being better Christians in this way as we are like Saint Paul and all the other saints who have gone one before us.
We must face the truth that in the here and now we are not want we want to be, but we are on our way to where we will fully and finally be perfect!
I hope and pray that you and I are able to say with Paul:
Yes, I love your commandments, Lord.
Yes, I hate breaking them.
God hear my prayer, wretched man that I am.
Thank you for setting me free from this body of death through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus Christ our Lord says to us today, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”
We need rest from guilt.
We need rest from shame.
We need rest from the Laws’ condemnation.
We need rest from Satan’s accusations.
We need rest, peace, hope, and joy, and Jesus is ready to give it.
On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus went riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
When kings came riding on a donkey, that meant they were coming in peace.
Our king Jesus came to give us peace with His Father.
Our King Jesus came to make us righteous and grant us salvation.
A member of Grace once asked me what the book of Revelation is all about.
I said, well I can give you the really, really long version or I can give you the really, really short version.
He said, “Well I am old, let’s go with the short version for now.”
The book of Revelation was written to be a source of comfort for Christians throughout all the ages.
Throughout all the ages, Christians will experience all kinds of trials and tribulation.
Throughout the ages, all Christians will have to wage war with Satan and the world.
Throughout the ages, all Christians will have to wage war with their old sinful nature.
But Revelation 17:14 is a victory cry for the righteous who live by faith throughout the ages.
They (all of our spiritual enemies) will make war against the Lamb.
The Lamb will conquer them all.
For he is Lord of lords.
He is the King of kings,
All who are called, chosen, and faithful to Him will reign with Him forever.”
Here is my simple translation – Jesus wins and so do we!
One day the external and internal battles will be over, and we will live with Jesus eternally.
In His name, Amen.