The Cycle of Failure and Frustration (And Its Remedy)

September 12, 2020 Leave a comment

SuccessHas then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. (Romans 7:13-21) 

In Paul’s past—prior to his conversion— the law was doing its job of exposing the sinfulness of Paul’s sin. Such exposure was necessary for Paul to trust Jesus. As long as he continued as a self-righteous Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-6), he would never come to the cross of Christ for salvation. In contrast to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-26) who when convicted of covetousness walked away from Jesus in sorrow, Paul submitted to Jesus and experienced a converted heart, a new birth. 

Notice the change in tense as Paul tells his story. He goes from the past to the present. “Sin, was producing death in me,” he said in reference to his former sinful life. Then he says “I am carnal.” He adds “For what I am doing, I do not understand.” And so on. 

What Paul is talking about is the futility and frustration of trying to live the Christian life in the energy of the flesh. In the flesh, he was “sold” under sin. We all are this way. In the flesh, our actions make no sense to us; what we set out to do, what we really want to do … we do not do at all. Operating in the flesh, what we hate is what we actually perform. Whenever this cycle occurs in our lives, it is the result of our dependence upon self and not on the Holy Spirit. It is our carnality (fleshliness) on display. The fruit of failure reveals the root of misplaced trust. 

There is no problem with the law itself. All of God’s commands are perfect. The problem is in what the law has to work with. When all the law has to work with are our puny efforts, the result is 100% predictable; it produces failure, all of the time. 

The culprit, the entity to be blamed, is sin within the believer. The vestige of sin that remains in our bodies (i.e. our flesh) creates the problem. The real “I” is OK. The same cannot be said for our flesh. 

For Further Review

1.  What is self-righteousness? Why is the law important in dealing with it?

2.  What is the cycle of failure and frustration in Romans 7:13-21? Why does it occur, and what is its cure?

3.  Why is there no problem with the law? What then, is the problem?

4.  Write out a couple of ways the flesh manifests itself in your life. Then write out a couple of ways the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in your life.

5.  Take some time now to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).


The Problem Is Indwelling Sin

September 11, 2020 Leave a comment

indwelling sinFor when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7:5-12) 

Prior to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle was a Pharisee. That means that he had been a strict adherent of the law as it was generally understood and applied in his day. 

Yet Romans chapter 7 begins with the startling statement that believers in Christ died to the law. That could lead some to believe that Paul was down on the law. Nothing could be further from the truth! Paul was not down on the law at all … he just understood its role and proper place in people’s lives. 

For instance, the law energized sinful desires. That happened when we were in the flesh … that is, when we were not yet converted. We all know how it goes: tell someone they can’t do something, and they want to do it even more! Paul’s personal testimony was his experience with the commandment which forbade greed and evil desires for things we do not have. The law not only showed Paul his own greed, but it also increased it within his heart. 

Thankfully we have been delivered from the law to serve Christ by the Holy Spirit. Again, the believer does not have a legal relationship with God, but a personal, dependent one. 

No, there is no problem at all with the law; it is holy, just and good. The problem is with indwelling sin. 

For Further Review

1.  If the law can arouse our passion to sin, then why is the law (of itself) not sinful?

2.  How are we to serve the Lord now? By what power? In your own life right now, by which power would you say are you operating?

3.  Cite examples from your own experience wherein the law seemed to incite sinful passions in your life. When this happens, what can our correct response be? How can we remedy this unhealthy pattern?


Married to Christ

September 10, 2020 1 comment

marriedOr do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:1-4) 

Romans 6 answered the question of the believer’s relationship to sin. The believer died to sin, and therefore should not, and may not live in sin any longer. Romans chapter 7 introduces one more question: what is the believer’s relationship to the law? 

As Paul addresses this question, the Spirit directs him to Jesus Christ and how the believer’s union with Him. Since the believer is a member of the bride of Christ, he/she is married to Christ. But before that marriage could take place the former relationship had to end—the relationship we had with the law. How did our relationship with the law end? Did we divorce the law? No, that is not how it happened. Rather, we died to the law. 

As in Romans chapter 6, the thought concerns our union with Jesus. In Romans 6 we died to sin because we were crucified with Christ; we live to God because we were raised with Jesus Christ. In Romans 7 we died to the law, which grants us the right to be married to Christ. We died to the law through the body of Christ, i.e. through His death at Calvary. So again, when He died, so did we … and this time our death was death to the law. 

That’s a good thing for us. The law was a demanding partner. It did not love us, it was not merciful, and was not gracious to us. The law could only hold us accountable for failure to obey it. Just as police officers do not reward those who obey traffic laws, the law did not (necessarily) reward us for times we may have kept it. 

So now the believer is married to Christ. In Biblical marriage, two become one. In the same way, the believer is one with Jesus. He is in us, and we are in Him. He has wholly committed Himself to us for our care and preservation (John 10:14-15, 27-28). He loves us; He is ever gracious to us. He lives His life in us. 

Whereas our relationship with the law could not produce a fruitful life, our marriage to Christ does. Jesus, as the true Vine, provides His life in us so we become fruitful branches (John 15:1-8). As we live in Him and He lives in us, we bear much fruit. We can do nothing without Him (John 15:5), but He can do anything in and through us. 

Christianity, therefore, is not legally based, but is a personal relationship with God through our oneness with Jesus. Christianity is a life, which is why it is called the Christian life. We are free to love God and others, free to live life guilt-free, free to abide in Christ, and free to obey and serve Him.

For Further Review

1.  What are the limitations and duties of the law? How does it treat us?

2.  Why was it necessary for us to die to the law? What does that allow the believer to do?

3.  Describe how a relationship and union with Christ enables us to bear fruit. How does this teaching affect the way you approach your Christianity?


Slaves of Righteousness, Not Slaves of Sin

September 9, 2020 Leave a comment

freedomWhat then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15-23)

Believers in Jesus Christ are under grace. That means that we are in a constant state of Divine favor. God has justified us, we have peace with Him, and we have been reconciled to Him. We are not under law. The law isn’t being held over us as a threat of some sort; God is not using the law to keep us in line. We have been justified by faith. Justification is a legal term, having to do with our righteous standing with God apart from the law (Romans 3:21-24).

Since believers are under grace, shall we just go on sinning? Is sin sinful for the believer? The answer: certainly not! We must not go on sinning. And yes, sin is sinful for the believer.

Sin is a violation of the law (1 John 3:4), and sin is missing the mark (Romans 3:23). When the believer intentionally commits sin bad things happen: the purpose of God for our humanity is thwarted, fellowship with God is broken, and the Spirit of God is grieved (Ephesians 1:18, Colossians 1:27; 1 John 1:5-10; Ephesians 4:30). When sin becomes continual, another form of slavery occurs. This new slavery is slavery to sin. Habits, addictions, and bondages can rapidly form. Even the believer can once again be trapped by sin. The shame and death of past sin resurfaces, and he has once again put himself in the powerful grip of sinful desires. That is not a good thing, ever. As Pastor Jon Courson said, “Sin is not bad because it’s forbidden; it’s forbidden because it is bad.” 

The exciting alternative is slavery to righteousness … and to God Himself. This scenario is possible due to the freedom with which Christ set us free (Romans 6:5-7; John 8:31-32; Galatians 5:1). When obedience to God is continual, there is slavery to doing what is right; the habits of goodness and the fruit of the Spirit appear in our lives. This new slavery is what it means to be truly free. Freedom to sin is not freedom at all; freedom from sin is the way of joy, love, and holiness. 

All that sin pays us is death; the gift of God is the exact opposite, life eternal through Jesus Christ. 

For Further Review

1.  What does it mean for believers to be under grace and not under law? How does this affect our relationship with God?

2.  Why is sin sinful for the believer? Why is it wrong for a believer to continue in willful sin?

3.  What are the results of continued sin in a believer’s life?

4.  What are the results of obedience to God in a believer’s life?


Know, Reckon, Yield

September 8, 2020 Leave a comment

living as ChristianFor if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:5-14) 

The incarnation of Jesus goes beyond His own death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. His incarnation extends to those who believe in Him. We were closely joined to Him in His death (when He died, we died) and in His resurrection (when He rose, we rose). Now Christ is in us, and we are in Him. 

As believers, we know something important about our death with Jesus: we know that what we were in Adam has been crucified. We also know that our crucifixion with Christ renders our bodies of sin inoperative, put out of business. Our bodies of sin (i.e. our flesh) no longer have power over us as they did prior to conversion. We are now able not to sin. We are not sinless, but rather are able not to sin. This is what we know, and are confident in it. 

We are to reckon (to consider as true) that we are indeed dead to sin. We are commanded to remember that sin does not have strength over us as it once had. We also are commanded to reckon that we are alive to God. We are now awake to Him and responsive to Him. Whereas in the first Adam we were dead to God, now we are alive to Him. We can hear His voice, sense His presence, and experience His love and power. We must consider these things as true. It is essential for believers to reckon these things as true, because that is what it means to live supernatural lives as born again believers. 

We must not allow sin to have authority over us. It must not reign, as if it was our master or king. We must not yield any part of our bodies to sin. Instead, we must submit ourselves to God, and each of our body parts to Him as instruments or tools that He can use for His righteous purposes. God is able to use our mouths, our eyes, our ears, our hands, to fulfill His plans in us. We must give Him that opportunity, each and every day. 

To summarize, we are to know, reckon, and yield. These three words, and the concepts behind them, are extremely powerful. They lead us into the experience of the victorious Christian life. 

Note that they are not optional for us; they are Divine commands. Our role is to obey as children of God, and bondslaves of Jesus Christ. 

For Further Review

1.  From this text, write down what we believers know. What are some implications that arise from what we know?

2.  From this text, write down what we are to reckon. What are some implications that arise from what we are to reckon?

3.  From this text, write down to whom we are to yield, and what we are to yield. What are some implications that arise from our yielding in these ways?

4.  In your own words, write out a summary of know, reckon, yield as you might explain it to a new believer, or to a 10 year old child. (This will help you in your own understanding of these truths.)


Baptized Into Christ Jesus

September 7, 2020 Leave a comment

dead-to-sin-alive-to-godWhat shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4) 

Paul last told us that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. The logical question then arises: since increasing sin brought even more grace, should we sin more to give grace a chance to show itself? 

The answer is definite. “Certainly not!” the Holy Spirit asserts through the apostle. It’s an absurdity for a true believer; after all, believers died to sin. Sin lost its “oomph” as far as we were concerned. Sin is not alluring as it once was, it’s not as powerful, and it’s not as enjoyable (for a number of reasons). Just as dead men are not drawn to a great steak dinner, so the dead-to-sin believer is not drawn to sin. He died to it. 

The question then, is when did we die to sin? God’s response is that when we were immersed into Christ (baptized into Him) we were immersed into His death, meaning that when Christ died, we who have believed in Him died with Him. When Jesus died, we died. Since Christ died for sin and had no sin, then His death means that we are indeed dead to sin as He was (and is). 

Not only did we die with Him, we were raised with Him as well. His resurrection is our resurrection. His life is our life. A resurrected man has a brand new kind of life, one that is not interested in the things of the world he left behind. 

For Further Review

1.  Why is the rhetorical question of Romans 6:1 the logical question to ask?

2.  Using your own words, describe the answer to that question.

3.  Read the story of Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis chapter 4. Notice especially what the LORD told Cain about sin’s relationship to him. How does the gospel of Jesus Christ alter what God told Cain that day?