Romans 7:1-14

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I’m going to invite you to Romans Chapter seven is where we’re going to be together today. Romans Chapter seven. And I want you to know, I’m approaching this this text today and a little bit a little heavy hearted and in the picture of Christianity and I also with a heavy heart, I want to walk a little humble hearted, not I don’t want to come across distasteful or judgmental in in what other Christians do. But I do want you to know, as I look at Romans chapter seven, one of the things I want to be conscious of is if Christians really go off the rails in their Christian life. Romans Chapter seven is kind of it’s kind of that chapter where they lose sight of what a walk with the Lord is all about. In fact, when I first became before I became a Christian, I remember I started reading the New Testament and I was very intrigued by Jesus and some of the things I was reading in the New Testament. My heart was drawn to want to know that Jesus. And I remember I went to a church that Sunday and I walked into the church building and I was a I grew up single, single parent home, not wealthy at all by any stretch of the imagination. Our family survived just to keep the lights on. It was a struggle just to keep the lights on. And I remember I walked in this church and I didn’t know the terms of Christianity at the time, but I remember as I walked in there, I was asking someone, I remember the first person I came across, I said, Take me to your leader.

You know, I wanted to I wanted to learn how to to know this Jesus. And what I was really asking was, how can I be disciples? But I didn’t have that framework of of terms at that time. I didn’t understand that. That’s what I was seeking to know Christ. But but I just said, Take me to someone. I want to ask them some questions about Jesus. And I remember they took me to one of their leaders and and I started to ask them about Jesus, but they couldn’t answer my questions. And all they did was critique what I was wearing that day. And I wasn’t dressed poorly. I just wasn’t dressed up to their standard. And and so that leader said that to me, and I said okay and wished them well, whatever went on. And I had them take me to their next leader. And their next leader said the same thing. I asked them about Jesus didn’t understand exactly what I was trying to say, but I wanted to know about Jesus. And rather than tell me about Jesus, they just critiqued what I was wearing. And I’m not like, I wasn’t walking around in a bikini or anything, like I was wearing pants and a long sleeved shirt. I just I just knew I wasn’t up to the.

And then finally I got to the third person and I asked them the same thing and I got the same response. And all I remember at that moment was I just looked at that person and I just said, Man, the Jesus I read in the Bible is not here. And I just turned around and walked out. And my heart of that moment, though, I still had this appreciation for Jesus, developed this, I will say at least a frustration towards church people, because I saw this disconnect from from who Christ was in the Bible to the way that that this church was trying to live it out. They would use words like Jesus and grace, but then redefine it to mean things that never It was not Jesus in grace. Right. In Romans Chapter seven is kind of that it becomes that place where Paul is trying to help our minds understand the distinction between what law is and legalism and grace and walking with Christ. And and when you approach that kind of topic, I know that the tendency in our hearts is to go one of two ways is some people think, you know, here I am at church, and so I need this list of rules now. And you just kind of add Jesus on top, right? It’s just it’s just another religion with Jesus thrown on on top. And then and then their concern is when they look at other people who talk about grace, is that this is just an excuse to do whatever the heck you want.

Right. And that’s not neither of those are biblical. That’s not what God’s heart desire is for us. And Romans Chapter seven is where Paul really tries to well, he doesn’t try. He does. He he ties together this this idea of law and helping us understand how to view that. But now how do we view that in light of God’s grace that’s been given to his people? There’s a there’s a place where law was was good and has intentions. And we’ll talk about that here at the end of this section we’re going to go through. But but as God’s people were called to live in his grace, and so what does that look like in our life? And then he builds that into that living in chapter eight, which I want you to make, make me a promise. As we go through chapter seven, we’re only going to look at the first half of Chapter seven. The second half of Chapter seven next week gets worse, but never read Chapter seven of Romans without reading Chapter eight. That’s the promise you made. If you’re going to read Chapter seven, you have to read Chapter eight, because Chapter eight is the the great. So now what related to Chapter seven and and all that it brings Chapter eight. If if. I’ll tell you, my favorite section of the Bible is John, Chapter 13 to 17.

That’s my favorite section of the Bible. Probably my favorite chapter of the Bible is Romans Chapter eight. And what makes Romans Chapter eight is so beautiful is the way Chapter seven ends as you as you jump into Chapter eight. So beautiful chapter that will get in together. But today, we’re going to look at exchanging the law for grace. And really what led Paul to this place is in Romans chapter six, verse 14. This isn’t on your screen, but Paul says this for sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace. So God’s people no longer live under law, but rather under grace. And in the first point in your notes, what you see in under point number one is just it’s the summary of what we’ve learned in Romans through the idea of law and grace. In fact, in Romans chapter seven, this is where Paul began, he said, Or do you not know brothers, for I am speaking to those who know the law. So he’s looking at a group of people that understand what the Old Testament law is about, and he’s helping their minds wrap around the significance of what this law represents now that they follow after after Jesus and His grace. Like, what is the law mean? Is it just rubbish? Do we just trash it? Was it was it bad to begin with? Like Paul? Paul’s helping them how to how to understand the law of God in light of the New Testament that the Lord brought to us.

And so you can see under the notes, this is just for way of recap all the things that Paul is peppered within his message about the law. It can’t be fulfilled. Romans two It’s unable to justify a person. Romans 328 It stirs up consciousness of sin. Romans 320 It brings wrath. Romans 415 But then in light of that, he also peppered within his messages where we stand as God’s people in the New Covenant. It says in 614, we’re not under the law but under grace that we died to sin, that were free from sin. That law increase increases sin, but grace abounds all the more. And so he was showing the importance that while the law had a place, now that we have this new covenant relationship with God, what does that look like for us? And so point number two in your notes is this Paul’s going to reflect in this first half of Romans seven what a law based relationship with God is like. In fact, that first blank in your notes is that law based relationship with God. He describes He describes that for us in the second half of this verse, he says that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives. He said, For those of you that know the law, here’s the important things to know the law that you are forever under the law.

So if someone asks the question, okay, here’s the law, how long do I have to obey this? Or how many times do I have to obey this rule? And Paul’s is saying for the rest of your life, right. It’s just you’re you’re stuck in this. This is your position. If you want to live the law. This is what the law means. The law means you’re here forever. You can’t break free from this. In fact, the way that he illustrates that then is found in verse two and three, verse two and three. He goes on to describe it in light of a marital covenant, because the old law, the law of the Old Testament, the word testament, another way of referring, referring to it is as a covenant. That’s why when you pick up your Bible, you have the Old Testament and the New Testament. It’s another way of saying the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Both of both are referred to as a covenant. But getting to understand the old covenant and here in a minute, the New Covenant, Paul compares that to the idea of marriage. If someone asks the question how how long is this binding? How long should I live under this old covenant law or this new covenant law? Well, Paul says, well, it’s it’s similar to the idea of a marital covenant. How long does a marital covenant lasts? Well, verse two and three for a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives.

But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law. And if she marries another mares, another man, she is not an adulteress. So the idea of what Paul is saying related to the old covenant is that the old covenant is intended to last forever. Like marriage, we typically use the term and marital covenant till death do us part because that that covenant is binding for your life. In our culture, we really, outside of the idea of marriage, we don’t have a whole lot of ways of thinking about covenant. We typically think in terms of contract and contract is different than covenant. Contract typically puts its eyes on on someone else and what they’re to perform for you, right? You you write a contract with someone to obligate them to to some standard of performance for you in order to serve you. Marriage is different. Marriage is covenant. The idea of marriage takes the attention off the the other person in their performance. And the idea of of covenant then is. Is what you do for their benefits. It’s the surrendering of your self to fulfill something for the benefit of someone else. That’s covenants. The idea of of giving your self away to to the benefit of another. And so Paul is saying it’s this idea of a marriage covenant that we think in terms of the old covenant or the Old Testament that we are are to fulfill.

There’s a famous quote by Billy Graham’s wife. She was asked once, she said, Ruth Graham. She was asked, Have you ever thought about divorcing Billy, knowing that his his life was very high, demanding he was traveling, gone all the time. They asked me, Ever get frustrated by this? You ever think about divorcing Billy? And her response really carried an idea of of covenant with it. And she said, Divorce, No. Murder, Yes. Till death do us part is the only way biblically to escape this is that someone must die. That’s that’s how she she thought it in terms of covenant, because that’s the intentions of covenant is the giving of your life to something completely. And in terms of this relationship with God, this is where Israel was. They entered into this old covenant relationship to to experience that, that walk with God. But here’s the problem with the old covenant. The old covenant standard is perfection. The law standard is perfection, and the law doesn’t exist to tell you how good you are. The law really only exists to tell you when you screw up. And so what you find is that you can never achieve its standard. You’ll never live up to its expectation. It will only remind you that you’re not good enough. In fact, in verse five, he goes on and says this For what? While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruits of death.

The wages of that sin that that law reminds us that we do. What it produces for us is death, because it recognizes that before a holy God, that’s what we’re worthy of. We can never live up to the standards of perfection. So those that try to avail themselves to God under law, what he’s saying is it’s an impossibility. And here’s how impossible it is by what he’s saying in verse five, the law not only not only points out where we fail, but it arouses our lives to to really be rebellious. It’s like I said, said to you this morning, for the next 10 seconds, I want you to do me a favor. Don’t picture in your mind the Eiffel Tower. And how many of you as soon as you say that, you insist instantly, just think of exactly what I told you to think about, right? It’s like when you see a law, some of you know, instantly someone tells you, Here’s a rule, and you may even thought about not breaking that rule. It wasn’t even on your mind about breaking that rule. But the minute someone told you, don’t do that, you’re like, I think I’m going to do that anyway, right? You had just this rebellious spirit, but just because someone told you not to do it, you just want to see how close your foot could get to the line in order to step on that.

And Paul, Paul is saying the law does something it provokes within us this this type of rebellious rebelliousness and it leads to death. The old covenant law. Brings our heart to death. A law based relationship. He’ll tell us the importance of the law in a minute. But a law based relationship doesn’t bring the freedom. That we hope. In fact, that was the danger with Israel in the first century. They thought the law was what they had to live in order to find life. But rather Paul introduces them to something else in verse four, and that is a a grace based relationship. And remember, he tells them how to escape the idea of the law that you’re committed to this for life. But then he says in verse four, If you want to know, well, how do we free ourselves from something that leads to death? What is the escape if we are connected to this for life? How how do we find the freedom that we’re we’re looking for? And he says this in verse four. He says, Likewise, my brothers. You also have died to the law through the body of Christ so that you may belong to another to Him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. What he’s identifying for us is to two things.

There’s only two ways to end a covenant. We talk about in terms of the old covenant, there are only two ways to get out of this covenant in general. There’s just two ways one. One is to fulfill it, and the other one is to die in it. And in terms of a marital covenant, since it’s a life commitment, the only way to fulfill it is to to die. Right? So two ways to fulfill a covenant. One is two ways to get out of a covenant. One is to fulfill it. The other one is to die, die in it. And and in verse four, what we find about Jesus in terms of the old covenant is that He did both. He did both for you and for me, in fact. When you see this in verse four, he gives us this phrase in the very beginning, My brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ. What he’s saying is Jesus took upon the covenant in his body. He fulfilled it with his life. In fact, in Matthew chapter five, verse 17 and 18, Jesus tells us he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He is the only one that could fulfill it. He he lived a perfect life and therefore fulfilled the demands of the law. He tells us not one jot or tittle will pass to all is fulfilled. Jesus by becoming God in the flesh fulfilled.

The old covenant demands for us. Jesus lived a perfect life, and not only did He live a perfect life, he then took the punishment of the old covenant, which is death upon him. He took our place, right? And so it goes on and it tells us he raised his body, was raised from the dead, like he took the punishment. Not only that he triumphed over sin, Satan and death. So Jesus fulfilled the covenant in both ways, right? He lived it perfectly. He fulfilled the demands and he gave his life. And in fact, Hebrews chapter eight, verse 13, talks about He rendered the old covenant obsolete. And then it goes on in chapter nine, and it shows how he gave his life as that sacrifice in order to render the old covenant obsolete. And therefore, what Jesus brings to us is this new covenant, this New covenant now where we have been invited into a relationship with God in order to enjoy his presence. And through that we are able to bear fruit. So apart from Christ giving his life, we could never bear fruit because we were dead in our sin in a position before God that’s dead. There is no life in that. But now that Jesus has come, Jesus has given his life for us and removed the old covenant and allow us to enter into New Covenant with him. That New Covenant relationship allows us to bear fruit in light of our new relationship in in Christ.

This relationship is grace based. Not law based. Law based. Stands to tell you where you fill. It’s always watching over your shoulder like Big Brother and always points out where you’ve gone wrong. Grace based. Well, in God’s grace, we can be honest with where we fail. His grace does not abandon us. His grace loves us in the mess. His grace walks through life with us, restoring us, supporting us for giving us desiring to do a new work in us, to help us become all that God has called us to be. That’s the beauty of a grace based covenant relationship. When you enter into a marital relationship, you know your spouse isn’t perfect. But covenantal early. You want to support them to become all that God has called them to be. To love them. To forgive them. To restore them. To support them. Your life used for them. To serve them not contractually based where you you may look at them and marry someone because of what they give you covenant based. It’s what you have to give to them. How can I help them become all that God has called them to be? Now, if I were being a little bit honest in my observation, I’m going to speak very generally here, guys, but. But when I watch, watch generally the the actions of men versus women, I would tend to say that men in general tend to be more task accomplished and women tend to be more relationally accomplished experientially.

They tend to have, I would say, a greater giftedness and how they’re able to communicate, interact. The guys tend to be very task driven. Women tend to be more relational driven. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a beautiful design the way that God has has made us. But guys, I would say the danger in that is that if you play that out completely is that men will can can lean into the idea of being law based than in relationship, very task driven, very performance based and with whole love. If you’re not if you’re not living up to my expectations and constantly looking down on someone and it does, it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that you’re always like that, but that that can become our our tendency. I know that that doesn’t mean women are always that way and guys are always that way. But if I had to just distinguish between genders, I think, guys, we have a little bit more tendency to to lean very law legalistic, but we all have that risk. Just I’ve often heard it said in marriage, there’s really only ever two problems in marriage, him or her. Right. And especially if her name in our culture is is Karen. That’s that’s the new Pharisee of today. Unless you’re here and your name is Karen, which we love you. I think the only Karen’s I know are great people, and I only say that in case I Karen hears me. But but the whole point is the beauty of relationship, where relationship thrives is is being able to extend that grace.

Helping people discover who God calls them to be through forgiveness and. Mercy and restoration and. In verse six, he goes on and he says, He says to us, he says, But now we are released from the law. Having died to that which held us captive. So that we may serve in the new way of the spirit and not in the old way of the written code. We’ve been released from the law. And he says one of the most beautiful things in this passage, he he leads into this much more in chapter eight, helping us understand this. But he says this to us that we serve in the new way of the spirit. God’s people get the opportunity to. To walk in the spirit and. In the first century, these words would have been incredibly powerful to God’s people. Today we. One, two. There we go. All right. Sorry. Today we take it for granted. The idea of spirit. That’s a weird start to the new year, by the way. But the spirit of God in the Old Testament, they would have to go to the temple to experience him. But now what he’s saying by the forgiveness of God through his grace, we have the opportunity to connect to God every day because His spirit is with us. It’s a beautiful demonstration of just how far his grace has really gone.

That have got us really forgiven you and he’s cleansed you. And who’s restored you? And he’s made you knew that it’s not this law based performance to have to meet God at the temple anymore. It’s. It’s recognizing now. Now God in dwells your heart and you walk with Jesus wherever you’re at. And so he’s saying, look, we walk in this this newness of spirit, because grace is what cures. The only hope we have in this world is found in grace. And grace, not only not only is is healing for the moment, but it also gives us a future and a hope with the Lord, we get to to to walk with him and to know him and to experience him and to enjoy his presence. This is the the beautiful gift of what God has done for us. And so then the question becomes, well, how should we view the law? I have the If the law condemned us and the law brought death. Does that make the law bad? Why would God give us that law? And and in verse seven or excuse me, verse 12, I’m going to come back to verse seven in just a moment. What Paul says is, look, the law in itself is not bad. In fact, what he says in verse 12 is the law is actually wholly. It teaches us who God is in his nature and is in his perfection. We look at the law, we see the carrot.

We can see the character of God through the law. Verse 12, he says, The law is holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. It’s not the law that’s bad. But rather it’s our heart that’s broken. The problem has never been the law. The problem has been resting within us. And the cure for that. The cure for that is not more law. In fact, in in verse seven, he goes on and he says this What then, shall we say? That the law is sin by no means. Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin, for I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said You shall not covet but sin. Seizing an opportunity through the commandment produced to me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. What Paul is saying is when I really when I recognized what the law really was, when I when I when I left, the idea of I can live this standard. And I started to realize just how demanding the law was, what I began to to realize is I’m a dead man before the Lord. I can’t I can’t achieve this. In order for all of us to to see how we’re guilty. Paul’s just like, Let me just throw out one thought out there coveting. I mean, how many of you how many of you covet? Right? Like, look, TV is just set up on coveting or advertisements all about coveting its appeal to you that, oh, you don’t have this, but you really need this and you should want this, right? Everything we do in life is centered in some degree around around coveting the things that you buy or what.

Like there’s this default in our heart that we just need better. We need to have what they have. We have to keep up with the Joneses, right? We go to buy new things. It’s hard to say that coveting does not lead us to to want more. And and Paul is just saying, just think about this one area of our life that dominates what we do and and dictates what we might be about and is coveting in and of itself. Just it helps me recognize that I am a sinful person. And what he’s saying to us is, look, the law was never intended to free you. What the law did was simply diagnose you. The law’s a diagnostic tool. It’s like when you go to the doctor and the doctor can tell you you’ve got a problem and he can give you a pill to treat it. But but maybe not entirely cure it, right? There’s a difference between what the law does. It diagnoses the problem. Like you go to a mechanic, you might want to get a diagnosis of your car, but it’s something altogether different to then repair the car, right, to to have it cured.

And what Paul is helping us realize is that the law, though it’s wholly it was never intended for you. It was only to help you realize that we’ve got a bigger problem. And unless we find the solution to that problem, what’s inevitably going to happen is death like in terms of your car. If you realize there’s a problem and you don’t, you don’t do anything about it, what your car is going to inevitably end up with his death. And he goes on further and he says this verse nine I was once a live apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me for sin. Seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceive me and through it it killed me. The law. Is a diagnostic tool. But not a healing tool. It reveals the problem. That doesn’t solve it. The danger then becomes when we look at the law and we think, Oh, no. There’s a problem here. I’m not living up to the standard. I should just try harder. Right. It’s like, well, and maybe a relatable way. If you find out something’s wrong with your car and you think the answer is, I should probably just go faster, right? That’s that’s not going to that’s probably going to compound the problem, not fix the problem. Same with us. Like, oh, I’m not doing good enough. I need to try harder.

The problem isn’t in your performance. It’s in the heart. Or only look at the law and we think, you know what, I’ll just ignore it. Everyone messes up, it’s okay. As long as I don’t do as bad as that guy, I’m okay. I’m ahead of them. Right. And so we might ignore. Or the other thing that we might do is let’s just change the law. I don’t like the standard. It reminds me of my brokenness. So rather than look at my brokenness, we’ll just we’ll just lower the standard. I think that’s probably where our country more is today than any other is like we have laws or we don’t like them anymore. Let’s just get rid of them, right? That’ll make us better. That doesn’t make us better. And we may just get rid of some rules. But the truth is we still see the brokenness there. And so what’s the answer? Verse 13 and 14. Did that, which is good. Then bring death to me. By no means. It was sin producing death in me through what is good. In order that sin might be shown to be sin and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh sold under sin. Paul is being honest with where the law should bring us at this verse. He tells us, look, it’s beyond measure. And let me just practically tell us, I think, how this should relate.

I think what Paul is driving us to here is to say this The law was never intended to save you. But if it does one thing in your life. May it bring you to repentance. May bring you to a place where you realize that you need rescue. To stop looking in yourself for the answer. And look to the one who is. And embrace his grace. And look how in covenant love this New Testament. Covenant love. He wanted to fight for you. To give his life for you, that you could find forgiveness and restoring and healing and your brokenness. That you could enjoy his presence and bear his fruit as he shapes his will in you. The answer isn’t try harder. The answer is ignorance. The answer isn’t change the law. The answer is die to self and live for him. The answer is surrender. The answer is take Jesus. All that you are, as he has given all that he is, you give all that you are surrender at all to this king. It’s not about your performance, but his. It’s not about your will, but his. It’s about letting the Lord lead your life. Which brings me to this, and I’ll end with this. These are two famous paintings, one by Vincent Van Gogh and the other ones by Rembrandt. And you probably tell the difference between a Van Gogh and a Rembrandt. But if not, Van Gogh’s on the left. Rembrandt is on the right. And if both of these paintings, they have both rendered their own rendition of Lazarus being raised from the grave.

But one of the interesting things about Lazarus raising from the grave before Lazarus was raised from the grave, if you remember how the story goes, is in John Chapter 11. Lazarus Sisters sent note to Jesus that things weren’t going well for Lazarus, and and when they sent word to Jesus in order to get Jesus attention, hoping that he would come out Lazarus before he died. The story goes that Jesus didn’t make it there. Before Lazarus died. He resurrected him from the grave. But the way that they the way that they sent word to Jesus is very interesting to me because it says their communication in Jesus, I think, says that they’re learning what it means to not walk in a law based relationship, but a grace space relationship in Christ. Because when they communicated to Christ, what they said was this and said so, the sister sent word to Jesus saying, Lord, the one you love is sick. And I think you learn so much by not just what they said here, but also what they didn’t say here. In a law based relationship, the statement would look more like this. Jesus, come quickly. You know the one that loves you. Is sick. And if you hear this morning, you love the Lord, great. I’m glad you love the Lord. I hope you grow in that love for the Lord.

But can I tell you the reason you love the Lord? It’s not because of you, but because of him. First, John Ford tells us we love him because he first loved us. And while while you love, love the Lord and why that is important, what’s far more important than your love for the Lord is God’s love for you. Because you would never have a shot in the dark. Apart from Christ. And I think Mary and Martha knew that in this hour. They knew. Yeah, Lazarus did love Jesus. But more important in this moment. Jesus loves Lazarus. And if anything great is going to happen, it’s going to happen not because of Lazarus love for Jesus, but because of Jesus’s love for Lazarus. That’s what transforms. And so when the lady sent word, that’s what they focused on. They put their eyes on him. And guys, it’s a beautiful thought for us. No matter where we’ve come or how far we’ve fallen short. To know that the point of all of this is not about the size of your love for Christ. The size of his love for you. That’s what changes everything. Your faith, the Bible tells us, could just be a mustard seed. Just a tiny, puny, insignificant mustard seed. But that mustard seed can grow mighty. Not because of your effort. Because of what Christ has done on your behalf. And in that you find freedom. And in that you find grace. And that you’ve been given new life.

Christmas Day 2022

Romans 7:13-25