Confusion. Uncertainty. Torn apart. Here is what you need to know about living the spiritual life: You don’t fully live until you die. Until a person is completely broken, God cannot resurrect them. The upshot of this entire scripture is moving towards the truth expressed in Rom. 8:11. Resurrection. Death and life. The promise of a resurrection is not a one time event that will happen someday, it is a promise of a quality of life beginning today, a God ordained life, a victorious life, a spirit filled life. While we wait for the fullness of the resurrection life, we are torn, a foot in two worlds…
Perhaps you can relate to the yearnings of the domesticated goose, well fed and happy in the barnyard, never wanting for grain and abundance. A flock of wild geese flies by overhead honking in rhythm, and the barnyard goose looks up, yearning for the freedom, makes a half hearted attempt to flap his wings knowing he’ll never be able to gain lift with his full body from the abundance of food and lack of flight. Torn by something greater, to be able to take flight, but grounded by the life of temptation, overindulgence. To be torn, knowing what is better, to take flight with the Lord, but stuck on the ground…take flight. Die to the old so that your spirit can take flight…
This scripture today is about marriage, or rather, a second marriage, as an illustration pointing to something greater. It’s about when you are torn in two. When you are torn, you know the right way, but it is easier to continue the same patterns, to keep eating the grain even though it means you will never be able to fly. The way this scripture contrasts it: the law and the new way of the spirit (Read Rom. 7:6) My paraphrase: “But now, but by giving up the grain, the abundance of the life of a domesticated goose, by dying to that way of life, that law of the barnyard that grounds us, we have been released from the old way, so that we can live the new life of the Spirit, the new life of flying with the wild geese and fully experiencing our yearning, that which we are called to be.” Are you torn? You know what is better, yet it is easier to keep your old ways, your old patterns.”
Marriage and remarriage is used in Romans 7 to show the old and the new:
A Personal Commitment—"I, Carl, take you, Sally”
An Unconditional Commitment—"For better or for worse”
An Exclusive Commitment—"Forsaking all others”
A Life-long Commitment—"As long as we both shall live”
A Fruitful Commitment—"The children God may give us”
When you take those 5 commitments into the spiritual realm, each one fits perfectly. Coming to Christ involves a commitment that is personal, unconditional, exclusive, life-long and fruitful. In Romans 7:1-6 Paul uses the marriage relationship to illustrate the power of Jesus Christ to change the human heart. Coming to Jesus Christ is like getting married all over again. It’s like leaving a bad marriage for a good one. Being released from the law, through death, into a whole new relationship. Giving up the law of the barnyard to be able to fly with the wild geese. Listen to Rom. 7:2-3.
“I’m torn” is the theme of Rom. 7. Pulled in to directions. In order to grow and thrive in your relationship with Christ, you must die to the old and raised to the new. Rom. 7:4 says it is “you” that dies. Death cancels all contracts. If you hire me to paint your house, and I die, the contract is null and void. In order to fully live we must die to the old. Some of you are stuck, caught in the trap of your old patterns, stuck in the rules of the barnyard, which keep you from flying with the wild geese.
Rom. 7:4-6 is the application of today’s scripture.
The point in this passage is not just that we traded husbands—the law for Christ. We have traded a bad marriage for a good one. The goose that lives in the barnyard may have a life of ease in a sense, but all the grain keeps the goose from living out the fullness of his gooseness. There is a better life that allows the goose to live out his purpose. That’s why living under the law, any other system, is never satisfying. a test: if you are not satisfied with your life, if you have a sense that something is missing, it could be because you have not fully died to the old way of your life. When you are torn, you may know the better way, but something pulls you to keep one foot in the old patterns. You may try to blame others, you may justify yourself, but there is still something missing..
Living under law, your old patterns, is like an unsatisfying marriage….Nothing is ever good enough for your husband. Nothing is ever clean enough. You work all day to fix a nice meal—and because it’s not perfect, he doesn’t like it. You can’t ever do anything right, no matter how hard you try, he gets mad. He wakes up every morning with a list of things you need to do today. And no matter how hard you work, you can never finish the list to his satisfaction. He’s picky, he’s demanding, he’s a perfectionist, he’s critical. The law is demanding. Living under the law is like living with a demanding husband. You end up beaten down, discouraged, frustrated, feeling like a failure. You can never be good enough no matter how much you try.
But now, in Christ, we died to the law. This is the only way to fully live. That ended our “marriage” to the law because death ends all contracts. Having died to the law, we are now “married” to Jesus Christ. That’s like trading in a demanding husband for one who is always loving, always forgiving, always encouraging, always accepting.
Five Truths to help us see what Paul is saying in Romans 7:1-6.
1. A change of partners means everything is different. The second marriage is never the same. You aren’t the same person and you aren’t married to the same person. Your new husband/wife doesn’t react the way the old one did. You aren’t the same person either.
What makes the difference? Love. Before you come to Christ, you are on a performance standard, trying to do more in order to find fulfillment. Through Christ you discover God loves you in spite of your failure. When the love of Jesus Christ floods into your heart, your desires are changed.
One person compared it to raising boys: when they are young, they are allergic to soap. Will go for days without a shower. Don’t care how they look or smell. You say, “You stink.” They say, “So what?”
But the day comes when life begins to change from the inside out. They begin to notice girls. Eventually an attraction develops, then a relationship. What, then? You can’t get him out of the bathroom. He stays in there for hours—shampooing, shaving, brushing, spraying, primping, trying to look his best.
What happened to that boy who wouldn’t take a shower? He’s gone forever, replaced by a young man who spends hours getting ready for a date. What made the great transformation? Love. What he once hated to do, he now gladly does. He’s been changed from the inside out.
Something like that happens when you come to Jesus. Your frustration and failure is replaced by a new desire to please God. Love makes the difference.
2. The more we try to keep the law, the more we fail, resulting in deep inner frustration.
Rom. 7:5 speaks of the “sinful passions aroused by the law.” Something about “Don’t” makes us want to “Do.” Something about “Do” that makes us want to “Not Do.”
—The sign says, “Wet Paint. Do not touch.” What do you do? You touch it.
—The law says, “55 Miles Per Hour.” How fast are the cars going? 58 MPH! Even when the police are around, something in us makes us want to go 56 miles per hour—just to prove we can do it.
—Your parents say, “Be home by 11:30 P.M.” So you manage to walk in the front door by 11:38 P.M.—Just late enough to send a message but not so late as to be punished.
The law sets a limit—and something in us makes us push the limit to see how far we can go and how much we can get away with. All of which means that even when we sincerely try to keep the law, we fail because there is something on the inside that makes us want to break the law instead of keeping it.
3. Our commitment to Jesus will lead to the fruit of a brand-new life.
Verse 4 speaks of bearing “fruit for God.” In this context, the “fruit” is the product or the “offspring” that flows out of a happy relationship with Jesus. There are three kinds of “fruit” every Christian should produce. First is the fruit of character—a life reflecting the qualities of Jesus such as holiness, righteousness, love, compassion, honor, dignity, patience, fidelity, piety and zeal. Your life will reflect your new relationship: your speech, your relationships, your habits, your associations, your hobbies, your way of handling problems, your marriage, your children, your commitment to your job. All that should change once Jesus comes into your life. You desire for others to join you in your new walk…your faith.
4. Such “fruit” is possible when we serve God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 6 declares that now we “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” The “old way” was the way of the law—"Do, do, do. Work harder, keep on trying, push harder.” If you are a goose the under the law of the barnyard the entire purpose is to get fat. That never worked because no one could ever do enough, work enough or push enough. You were bound to fail. The law guaranteed it.
What’s the “new way?” It’s the way of the Spirit. It’s an inner change wrought in your heart by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 speaks of God “pouring out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” The new way is love. We serve God now out of love and gratitude, not out of fear or guilt.
5. Not law, but just as love is the secret of a good marriage, love is also the secret of of a satisfying Christian life.
The faith commitment that leads to salvation is the same kind of commitment that leads to a happy marriage. The law says, “You must.” Love says, “I want to.”
In an old testament story, we are told Jacob loved Rachel. Laban, Rachel’s father said, “You can have her, but you must work seven years before you can have her.” Genesis 29:20 reveals the heart of true love: “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” If you don’t understand that, it’s because you’ve never really been in love. Jacob’s love made the seven years pass as if they were only a few days.
Laban said, “You must.” Jacob said, “I want to.”
If you want a great marriage, you’ve got to build it on love. A great relationship with Jesus Christ is built on love. Love begins where the law ends. Love does what the law can never do—it changes people from the inside out.
“I’m torn” is our hearts cry so often. When we are torn, we are like the barnyard goose living by the barnyard rules…when the wild geese fly by, there is that inner longing to fly, and we are torn. We know what is best, but we do that which we know we should not do. The way of the barnyard keeps us grounded, but the way of Christ allows us to fly with the wild geese. Is something missing in your life, do you have a deep hunger for more of Chirst? In order to fully live for Christ, we must fully die to our old life the freedom of Christ, the love of Christ, the transformation from the inside out. Amen.