The message of the Bible is don’t point fingers, but look inward. As you look at today’s scripture, notice how often Paul uses the word “I.” “I” “me” or “my” -- I counted a full 35 times. Paul is saying, this is what I am like, I am at fault, this is my nature.
I read one person’s opinion that the #1 reason why people don’t come to church is because////they don’t feel good enough. They feel like they are too bad and the people at church are better than they are… they don’t feel like they can measure up…
I am blown away when Paul says in Rom. 7:14, “I am unspiritual.” What he means by that is that there is a sin side to him that he has to keep in check, a sin side that he must confess. How often we reach for the skies with our feet in cement. I love the quote of CS Lewis in the bulletin: “Aim at heaven and you’ll get earth thrown in” Paul is getting at our torn nature, our sin nature… reaching for heaven, yet caught by our sin nature. Paul speaks these words to try and influence the stubborn, arrogant church leaders at Rome – he wants them to see the two sides, the internal struggles, that they are no different from anybody. God uses us to his glory even while we are yet sinners.
35 times in a short space Paul uses the word “I”—“I am unspiritual” he says. Honesty and truth of who we are is imperative if we are to find wholeness and peace. share your story, share your testimony….Here’s a story of a man I admire. “ Frank”. A quiet gentle encouraging man. Frank does not point fingers at anybody. When Frank was about 20-25 years old, he had a job as a logger. Each night, on his way home from work he stopped at the bar to unwind. One day he had a drink or two and he got in his car. He notices a man walking alongside the road, then his mind is blank; the next thing Frank knew, the man was running in front of the car and fell as Frank drove over him. Frank was arrested and spent the night in jail, not knowing if the man was dead or alive. The next day he heard the full story: Frank’s car headed off the road straight towards the man, the man saw him coming and started running, went into the ditch, and the car kept coming, and went right over the man, who lived, because of the ditch. Frank says, “I’ve never had a drink since.” But more importantly, he said, “when young people mess up, or anybody messes up, he says, “I am no better than them. I understand. I could have killed a man, but I was spared.” Frank knows there is a sin nature in each of us, we long to be fully with God, to wake up every morning on fire for God, to live every moment to the fullest, yet reality is that for some unfathomable reason, the old nature creeps into our thoughts, into our lives, out of our mouth and actions, our feelings of vengeance and anger… we are torn in two directions.
This is who the Lord Jesus Christ came for, the Franks of this world, imperfect people, the Carl’s of this world. All of you have powerful stories of what God has done in spite of your sin nature. Be amazed that God loves you. That’s what I hear from Paul, his testimony is not one of despair and rejection… it’s one of amazement: Rom. 7:25: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is not a woe is me speech or a I’m the scum of the earth speech, it’s words of amazement that the Lord loves him.
At SACC, you know who we try to be: we are a community of the broken inviting other broken people to meet the Lord. “the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.” If you think you are not good enough to be part of a Christian community, the real answer is that you are not, but enlarge your vision of who else is NOT WORTHY: Nobody is worthy, nobody is good enough. I am not good enough. You are not good enough. Not even my mother is good enough! Join us anyway in our walk of faith because nobody is good enough!
What we find when we come to Romans 7:14-25 is a single thought: inner turmoil. struggle. conflict. war. That’s what Paul says was going on in his life as a follower of Jesus Christ. You’re going to have a struggle, you’re going to have a conflict, you’re going to experience inner warfare, because of the tension of our sin nature and life in Christ. We are torn between the two. For all of us as believers in Jesus Christ, sin is not something that simply is outside of us, but clearly Paul is saying that sin is something that we must wrestle with on the inside every single day.
Why is it that there is this struggle inside of every believer? Paul says the answer twice. Rom. 7:17, “as it is it is no longer I myself doing it, but it is sin living in me.” Sin living in me. He uses the same phrase in verse 20– “sin living in me.” Sin dwells inside the life of every believer. Paul says that sin is actually present in the members of his body. like a cancer. He says that whenever he wants to do good, “evil is right there with me.” As long as you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will never be completely free from the pull of the sin that is inside you.
As we study this text, three times Paul confesses his own personal struggle with sin. Each one of those confessions reveals a different aspect of the struggle we face as believers to live victoriously for Jesus Christ. You know what happens when you point a finger at somebody else, there are three fingers pointing back at you. Paul addresses each of those fingers pointing back at him – how easy it is to point fingers at others and let others know what they are doing wrong, but that is not Paul’s way, his way is to look at the three fingers pointing at him.
1st finger: The struggle to live up to what you know you ought to be. Rom. 7:15-17
Paul says in verse 15, “I do not understand what I do.” That’s an amazing confession. You hear children say it. They throw a rock through a window, break a plate, hit their brother hard. Then you ask that brilliant adult question expecting some rational response:, “why did you do that?” What’s the kid going to say – I was doing a science experiment to see how much force the window could take. No! they will give you the universal answer: “I don’t know.”/// You have ideals, you have standards, and then don’t live up to them. Paul’s confession is no different than that of a child: I don’t know why I did that. No it makes no sense, yet I did it. This past few weeks I’ve sat with two different men and explored with them what it is that makes them drink – alcohol is their demon, nice guys both of them when sober. I don’t even ask the question why they drink – I know the answer – they don’t know, I go down a different line of questions. I have the same answer when it comes to my sin nature.
What Paul is saying is that’s true for all of us. Words just spew out of our mouth – why did you say that? “Why did you do that?” Why did you go to that place? Why did you break that promise? The only answer you can think of:, “I don’t know why I did that. Something just moved within me and I did it and I don’t really understand it.”
Paul confesses he feels a continual civil war going on inside his heart: “I want to do good, but I don’t do it. But the thing that I don’t want to do, I do anyway.” We know what’s wrong and we fight against it and then we do it anyway. We make a promise and then break it. We set a goal and we don’t go after it. We say “I’ll never do that again” and we do it. We get on our knees and say, “Oh, God, I’ll never do that again.” And then the next day, we do it or we say it again. That is the truly human experience for all of us. That’s the first struggle. The struggle to live up to what you know you ought to be.
2nd finger: The struggle of repeated personal failure (We are all Insane!). Rom 7:18-20
It sure would be nice if we could learn from our mistakes and never do it again. Rom. 7:19. “The evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” Maybe the problem is that all humans are insane! Do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Paul admits his insane actions as fact: I keep on doing, no excuse, no rational, a simple fact. I keep on doing that which I do not want to do. He’s insane. I’m thinking that as a Christian, it is at least better to know you are insane, to know your failings, to know the sin within you. If we are all insane anyways, it’s at least better to know it. I’m thinking of a man that tells me all the time, “I know my potential if I get in certain situations” so his strategy is to tell people and then try to stay away from those triggers.
Why do we keep pushing the buttons that we know results in a fight. Why do we get ourselves in situations that we know will end badly. To confess the tendency to repeat our personal failures is the beginning of laying our sins before the Lord, so that the Lord can begin to control our insanity.
We must come to grips with repeated personal failure. The first step in healing is to admit that you are sick. Healthy people don’t go to doctors. Only sick people do. The people who are made better by the power of God are the people who are not ashamed to admit the weakness and the failure and struggle that they are undergoing in their own personal lives. That’s the second inner struggle, the second finger pointing back at me. The struggle to come to grips with repeated personal failure.
3rd finger: Struggling to recognize true nature of the inner struggle. Rom. 7:21-24
“When I want to do good,” Paul says. People naturally want to be good, they want the best to come out. Yet there is an evil nature that is at war with the good – like a voice, or an urging to hold back, to focus on something else. If we are to reach our full potential in Christ, we must recognize the sin within us at war, determined to stop goodness from dominating.
People are complex. I talk about this all the time in preparation for funerals, nobody is perfect, we all have a side that is less than perfect, yet we also all have a good side. We are complex. We have conflicting emotions, conflicting desires… It is important to recognize the two natures because if you do not recognize the law of sin in you, then sin will dominate. To know the powerful nature of sin, to know the purpose of sin is to stop good, is the beginning of resisting sin. Sin is at war with God’s law in us. Revenge, war, getting back, punishing are all sin speaking. To know our true character, and to recognize the nature of the inner struggle, is laying the pathway for a victorious Christian life.
Whenever you point a finger at others, understand that there are three fingers pointing back at you. May the Lord transform our hearts as we recognize the inner struggle all of us face. This is why we need God to overcome the struggle of living up to doing what we know is right, the struggle of repeating over and over our personal failures, and the struggle of recognizing the war of sin seeking to destroy the desire for good in us.
None of us are good enough, which is why we all need the Lord to overcome the pull of sin causing an inner struggle. “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.