Joni’s difficulty is a bit like the inner turmoil of Romans 7:14-25: not only does our body not do what we tell it to, not only that, but we are captive to sin. Who among us cannot identify with the cry of Paul: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). We are confronted with a dilemma as we try to live righteously. If there were no answer for this question, we would hardly dare to press on. But there is an answer! Thanks be to God, there is a solution!
This is part b. Summary of last week's message:
The struggle to live up to what you know you ought to be. Paul says in Rom. 7:15, “I do not understand what I do.” an amazing confession. Children 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?” Adults are no different…the dopy things we do.
The struggle of repeated personal failure. It would be nice if we could learn from our mistakes and never do it again. Rom. 7:19. We do the same thing over and over and expect different results. I heard from a lot of people that really identified with the description that they are insane. That’s what Paul seems to be saying: “I’m insane.”
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.
Today, overcoming the inner struggle. Living victoriously in a fallen world.
Your world is a mess. What can you do? The truth: You will struggle with sin as long as you are on this earth. Easy to get frustrated.
For some, the reaction is to run… to get away from whatever the issues. A lot of stuff happens in Sumas, Peaceful Valley, Paradise, Kendall, Everson, Nooksack, and every point inbetween. no question. The depth of problems is staggering… a couple days ago, waiting around a couple hours with the death of the young man – ruled an accidental death, and the issues, the questions, you know what is the most amazing thing to me of all, some of you are learning about this for the first time… The problems are staggering, yet God is here… Sumas, the foothills, the Nooksack Valley is a community of broken people, but the reason you cannot really run away is that you have nowhere to go that is stress free. Tell me where you can go where everyone has it together.
Sometimes people try to be strong, dig in their heals – it doesn’t work… Jonah tried to run away, the old testament prophet… he tried to run away from God. like that is possible, but he had even a bigger problem: It’s the same problem we have: you can leave Sumas, maybe you can go into your apartment and lock the doors and try to shut the world out. (I’ve been in many of those apartments and believe me, I don’t find peace) The reason you can’t run away, the reason you can’t overcome by being strong, the reason closing your doors is not a solution: no matter where you run////you are still there -- you can’t run away from yourself. … Romans 7 is the testimony of a man admitting the truth about the struggle within his own soul. We are going to struggle. The most significant battles are not the ones on the outside. The real battle of sin is the one on the inside. It’s the struggle that goes on in your mind and your heart, between the pull of the flesh and the pull of the Holy Spirit.
What will help us in our struggle with sin? /inner turmoil.
# 1: Honesty… one of the great hungers of all humans. To be known… Honesty. Rom. 7:24a. There is an innate craving to be known.
At Jon-Jon Anderson’s funeral on Wednesday there were many comments about not judging others according to how people looked, and I agree, in the setting meaning the colors, the clothing, clearly wanting to send the message that not only John-Jon but also his friend are real person with unique personalies. One of the thoughts I had, to extend the same need that young people have –the young people who have such a different appearance from me, just as I am wrong to judge them according to their appearance, they best not judge by my appearance because I was wearing slacks and a tie. And guess what. As far as I could tell, they saw beyond my stuffy institutional look and had a glimpse of who I was.
How incredibly necessary to be known…. To take away the façade. We are like onions, made up of layers and layers and layers so that we don’t even recognize the real us. One of the most important things Christians can do in this old noisy world is listen. We need listeners to rise up, to listen to people who have a need to be known. When I was a kid we had an old B/W tv on a rickety plywood tv stand with rabbit ears… we got channel 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, depending on which way the wind was blowing. How come, with the Advent of cable, we now that we have hundreds of stations, but there is less on tv. The more noise the less we hear. There is a lot of noise everywhere we go. Too many channels. People are hungering to be heard. Our desire in SACC and the larger Christian Community is for people to know and embrace Jesus Christ, and I believe in this day, in this age, in this noisy old artificial world, the message of Jesus Christ going out to the world must begin by listening. My ears are more important than my mouth because people need to be known. Honesty.
“What a wretched man I am,” Paul says. to be known for who we truly are…
Step # 2: Humility. Rom. 7:24b
“Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The difference between honesty and humility is that honesty says “I am a wretched man” and humility says “I cannot save myself.” I like Winston Churchill’s example of humility: Winston Churchill was once asked, "Doesn't it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?" "It's quite flattering," replied Sir Winston. "But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big."
Arrogance, stubbornness, a prideful attitude is an alternative to humility. Self pity would work, too. But none of that prepares you for wholeness, peace, depth. Sometimes humility is thrust upon us. A few years back I thought I knew what I was doing. Bees had made a next in the ground in my raspberry row. I thought it would be fun to spray some bee spray and sit back to watch the show, maybe I was a little bit cocky. So I stood about five feet away, aimed the can, sprayed just a little, and one bee staggered out of the hole, made a “beeline” right towards my head, and stung me inside my nose! Do you know how tender the skin is inside your nose? And the thing kept after me. I ran screaming into the house… I just hope none of the neighbors were looking out the window. Sometimes humility is thrust upon us…
I can only think of three ways to confront your sin. Number one, you can deny it. There is a lot of denial, explaining away. Many people do that. Number two, you can try to deal with it on your own. Lot’s of self help books, ten steps to happiness, improving your personality. That doesn’t work. You can spend years trying to make yourself feel good. Buy all the ice cream in the world to try and comfort yourself, pamper yourself, it doesn’t work in the end. Or number three, you can admit your sin and turn to God and Jesus Christ and there find forgiveness. That takes humility: admitting we cannot rescue ourselves, we need help.
Step # 3: Complete Dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here we come to a wonderful verse of Scripture: Rom. 7:25: “Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” That’s the answer to everything just said about Paul’s struggle with sin. All of chapter 8, which we won’t come to until after the next series… is enlarging that one tiny statement. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Just remember this. It’s not a formula; it’s a person. It is not something on the outside. It is moment-by-moment dependence on Jesus Christ and realizing that his power is enough to rescue you. Honesty and Humilty is the preparation to accept Christ: this is who I am, I need help, help me Lord Jesus. Honesty, Humility, Embracing the person of Jesus Christ! You don’t have to stay in the muck and mire, the inner turmoil. Romans 7 is NOT a discouraging word on the ugliness of sin, it is a message of overcoming the inner turmoil that plagues all of us: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Through complete dependence on Jesus Christ, there is the promise of significant victory in your life. The promise of peace. There is hope. The excitement of life…
It’s tempting to skip Romans 7 because it is all about sin. But we cannot do it. We need to be honest, we need to be humble, as the pathway to a complete dependence on God. The problem is sin, the solution is Jesus Christ. Jesus allows us to struggle with sin because sin is the reality of our nature, sin is the consequence of our choices, sin is truly a part of who we are by nature, and that experience of struggling with our true identity is meant to drive you into the arms of Jesus Christ. Honesty, Humility, Embrace.
The inner turmoil that you are undergoing in your life doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. God rescues us even while we are sinners, so that in your struggle, you would be stripped of your self-reliance and begin to trust in God and God alone. Complete Dependence. Does the fact that you struggle make you a failure? No. Does it make you a bad person? No. Does it make you a loser? No. Does it make you a sub-standard Christian? No. Do you know what it makes you? It makes you an excellent candidate for the grace of God.
If you are struggling with sin, first, turn your life over to Jesus Christ if you’ve never done so. Then number two, hold on to Jesus and never let go. Your inner turmoil is part of the process to drive you to Christ. When you fail, and you will, remember, you’ve got good company. Apostle Paul and he didn’t do so badly. Everyone sitting in this room. Nobody is immune. Do you feel like your life is out of control? Be honest, let others know who you really are, be humble, recognizing you cannot rescue yourself, and run to Jesus Christ and embrace the cross. Turn to him with your whole heart and you will discover that through Jesus Christ, you can become more than a conqueror through him who loves us. Amen.