The Incredible Awesome Beastly Truth

 

We are in Romans 7 and last week our discussion ended with verse 6.  Now, selecting how many verses to cover this week was not the easiest task.  We could just take 7-13 and focus there today, but I really didn’t want to stop at verse 13.  The next problem is that the rest of the chapter is so closely tied with the beginning of chapter 8 making it also very hard to stop at verse 25. That being the case, we are going to venture all the way into chapter 8 today so hang on. We are going to start by reading only the first 13 verses of Romans 7.  We will discuss them, and then move into the rest of 7 and into 8. 

Let’s go ahead and stand for these 13 verses. 

 

Romans 7

1 Since I am speaking to those who know the law, brothers and sisters, don’t you know that the law rules over someone as long as he lives? 

For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband. 

So then, if she is married to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law. Then, if she is married to another man, she is not an adulteress.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the body of Christ so that you may belong to another. You belong to him who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions aroused through the law were working in us to bear fruit for death. 

But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.

What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! But I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. 

And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. 

Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life again 

10 and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. 

11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 

12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. 

13 Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.

 

PRAY

Based on the logic of Paul’s argument that we’ve been studying so far, we could jump from verse 6 right into chapter 8…

But Paul is going to stop to again address potential questions his audience might ask at this point. 

If the law aroused our sinful passions as verse 5 says and if we are free from the law, then is the law itself sinful? 

 

What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! But I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. 

And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead.

 

Before the law there is certainly covetousness within us, but when the law says, “be content with what you have instead of wanting what everybody else has,” it is then we discover how continually covetous we are! 

Now, when Paul says “apart from the law sin is dead,” he’s not saying there is no sin until the law comes.  In Romans 5:13 he told us “sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law.” So it is important for us to define the meaning of the word “dead” here, and we are going to have to define Paul’s meaning on some other words in the coming verses as well. 

What Paul means is that sin is unrecognized, dormant, free. In the land of no righteousness, how would you identify sin? You can’t! Not until righteousness is revealed.  If you’ve never seen light, how would you know you’re in darkness.  But like Gary shared in our Wednesday fellowship, the law is the light that shines on sin. 

 

VERSE 9

Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life again 

10 and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. 

11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 

 

Oh man, we are about to witness the origin of the Matrix here in Romans 7. 

Again, how can Paul say he was “alive apart from the law”?  Does he mean spiritually alive?  Paul is simply talking figuratively here, just like when he said “sin is dead apart from the law.”  Paul is saying that before the law, we can have a sense that we are ok, we are free, we are good.  But when the law appears to our consciousness, all of the sudden we are no longer ok, free, or good.  In that sense, we die. 

The law kills our deceived perception of life, our false belief and hope that we were alive. 

And how does it kill us? Is it the law that kills us or sin? Important question.  SIN kills us through the law. Sin uses the law as a weapon to deal a death blow to our false hope.  We wake up from the dream that we were alive and we see that we are dead in our sins.  The law doesn’t kill me.  It exposes that I’m already dead.  So what dies is the deception, the false reality that I was alive.  The law reveals that I am dead in sin. 

Come on, this is THE MATRIX.  Neo is “alive” with the rest of the world of people until he takes the red pill and then what happens?  The red pill, in our case the law, wakes him up to the reality that his condition is nothing like he thought it was. He is imprisoned in a pod with all the rest of humanity.  All this time he thought he was alive, he was totally deceived as his body was being used to fuel the dark world of robots.  I mean, that is a pretty good illustration of what Paul is saying.  

The huge difference here, is that the law, our “red pill” simply wakes us up, it doesn’t set us free.  So now, we are awake in our tank like Neo with the cables of sin still stuck in us as it drains our life.  We aren’t able to escape like Neo did.  We are stuck in the pod until Christ comes to save us. 

Alright moving on to verse 12

 

12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. 

 

The red pill was a good thing for Neo.  At first, it didn’t feel like it because what Neo wakes up to is the horrible reality of his condition. It was probably tempting to plug himself back into the Matrix and go on living his fake life.

The law is a good thing for us.  It is holy, just, and good.  So that means seeing our condition is gonna hurt until we get free in Christ. 

 

13 Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.

 

How sick is our sin?  Remember in the OT when Joseph says to his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good”? Yeah, our sin reverses that.  What God means for our good, sin means for our destruction. What a parasite.  Sin takes what is good, and uses it to produce evil. 

The old Christian Augustine demonstrates this very well with a testimony from his own life. In his work, “Confessions” book 2 chapter 4, he says, 

There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night–having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was–a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart–which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error–not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.

What Augustine is saying here is that he and his scoundrel friends broke the law against stealing just for the sake of doing it. They did not sin in the pursuit of pleasure.  Sin was their pleasure. 

And Paul is saying in verse 13, that the law caused sin to become hideous to the max. So that “sin might become sinful beyond measure.”  How disgusting is sin that we would want to break the law just to revel in our evil—our rebellion against God because we want to be God.  The law is the billboard that declares to us we are not God and that’s exactly what the sin in us desires.  That’s the call of the serpent in the garden, and that is the root of our sin. And I think it’s even safe to define this entity of sin within us as that which seeks to be god and thus rejects God and His position of sovereign authority and power.  It is our rebellion within. Wow.

TRANSITION

 

Ok, that is verse 7-13.  Now we are going to transition into the rest of chapter 7 and into 8.  Coming right off of this conversation about the law and sin, Paul is going to describe the war within our own selves in relation to sin’s presence starting with verse 14. 

We are still talking about how the law and sin interact within us and how we relate to them.  This trio we started talking about in chapel 6—the law, sin, and us—are on full display in these verses. 

How do all these come together? 

 

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin. 

15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 

16 Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 

17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 

18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 

19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 

20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. 

21 So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. 

22 For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, 

23 but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. 

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.

Romans 8

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, 

because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 

For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, 

in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. 

Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. 

The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. 

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. 

10 Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.

 

So as we start unpacking verse 14 and working through this, I think we can actually supersede the question of “who is Paul talking about in these verses?” “Is he referring to himself before he was saved or is he describing his current state as a believer?”  We are entering into a slightly different conversation in which these are not the most relevant questions to ask.  And this is why I wanted us to read all the way into chapter 8.  We are entering into the conversation of flesh vs Spirit. Look at chapter 8, verses 12-13

 

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, 

13 because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 

“Saved vs not saved” is not the conversation here.  The conversation is “Flesh vs Spirit” 

In the rest of 7 and into chapter 8, Paul is going to present the 2 operating systems for life: “In the flesh” or “in the Spirit.”  Apple or Android?  Windows or Mac?  Two different operating systems.  which one is on the throne? 

Starting in verse 14, Paul is going to describe what it looks like to operate in the flesh, I believe, AS someone who is saved. 

 

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin.

 

Wait, what?! Didn’t we just finish talking about how we were free from sin? How does this make any sense?  We have to define Paul’s “I” here.  He says, “I am of the flesh.” SO the “I” here is in regard to the flesh.  Unfortunately, salvation has not yet changed our flesh.  This earthly part of us, the flesh has not yet been saved from sin.  It is still a slave to sin.  

It’s hard to nail down a good definition for the flesh.  I don’t think it’s necessary to get too far into this, but I don’t think the flesh is just limited to our physical bodies, its a little more than that.  It’s similar to the difference between the brain and the mind.  How would you nail down the difference there?  We know they are different, but how exactly?  One is a physical organ, the other is a more abstract concept. So it is with the body and the flesh I believe.  The flesh is in the body like the mind is in the brain.  

Partly why I’m saying this is to keep us from the error of believing our physical bodies are evil in and of themselves.  So when I say flesh, don’t just think physical body.  It’s more than that.  But it’s also not the old man either.  It is the earthly part of us that has been corrupted by sin whereas the “old man” was something different. It was our old spiritual nature, the core of who we were that was disconnected from God. That’s gone.  We established that in chapter 6. The new us, the core of us is no longer a slave to sin like the old man, but unfortunately, our flesh still is.  But thankfully, we are not just our flesh.  That’s not all there is to us. There is also a new man, a new nature, the core of us that desires God’s law.  We are comprised of both these things simultaneously. 

 

 

VERSE 15

15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.

 

Paul is bewildered because he is a living contradiction.  He is a torn being.  

 

16 Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 

 

By the very fact that I don’t like doing the wrong stuff I’m doing means I’m acknowledging the goodness of the law.  If I wasn’t acknowledging the law’s goodness, I wouldn’t care whether what I was doing was in accordance with it or not.  I would be indifferent. Or “alive” as Paul says earlier.  Paul is describing the prison of the flesh. 

 

17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 

 

Whoa, what a statement.  Is Paul avoiding responsibility for his sinful actions here?  No.  Again, we must define “I.”  The “I” here is the part of Paul that agrees with God’s law that it is good.  This is Paul’s new nature.  I believe this is born again Paul!  He is new in Christ.  That “new Paul” is not the origin of the evil he’s doing.  It’s the part of him and us that doesn’t like the evil we are doing.  Sin within us is the origin! 

 

18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

So notice that.  There’s no goodness in the flesh. Sin is what resides in the flesh.  That’s where it resides and as a result nothing good comes from the flesh. Paul says there is a desire to do good, but it can’t be in the flesh so where does that desire come from? Where does it reside if not in the flesh?  It comes from that new man part of him, the Spirit of God within him, the new nature—what Paul is going to refer to as the “mind.”   So there is a desire for good, but it has no where to go because the flesh has no ability to do the good.  It has no ability to carry that good desire of fulfilling the law to the actual action of fulfilling the law. 

Then in verse 19-20 Paul basically summarizes/repeats what we’ve just talked about. 

 

19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 

20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me.

21 So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. 

 

How sad is this?  How defeated is this?  When Paul wants to do good, he only finds evil available in himself.  We want to love those around us, but then we find ourselves lashing out, cutting down, gossiping, and destroying relationships while trying to justify ourselves.  The law or principle that consistently shows itself true IS when I want to do good, I find only evil within me. 

 

22 For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, 

 

The “inner self”??? What is this?  Ah yes, the new nature, that core piece of us, the new man. Paul says “IN my inner self.”  It seems clear this is closely connected if not synonymous to the mind which he’s going to say in the next verse. 

 

23 but I see a different law [or principle] in the parts of my body, waging war against the law [principle] of my mind (my conscious desire) and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. 

what is the law or principle of the mind Paul mentions? 

I believe its verse 14 – Paul’s inner man delighting in God’s law and desiring to obey it. 

Verse 23 is the clash of these 2 principles Paul has found to be true.  And which one wins?  The law in the parts of his body wage war against that law of his mind and take him prisoner.  Evil wins out in our flesh.  The mind is not strong enough to overcome the flesh.  My desire is to love and serve people but the law in the parts of my body (i.e. my mouth) decides differently and I find myself bringing death and pain on the people around me.

 

VERSE 24 

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

 

Oh wow church, I thought we were made new in Christ and free from sins hold?!  It was no longer our master. Remember?  What does salvation even mean if our flesh is still a slave to sin and evil wins out even though we want to do what’s right?!?!  What else can we say but “what a wretched man” or “wretched woman that I am.”  Who will save us from our “body of death”—This flesh that is enslaved to sin? 

 

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.

 

This verse just stops us.  Everything we’ve been working through that past few verses was a picture of what it looks like to try to serve God in our flesh.  And so when Paul asks “Who will save me from this body of death—this flesh” and then he answers “thanks be to God through Jesus,” it can hit us like an awkward surprise we don’t know what to do with.  We feel like we should be celebrating with Paul, but we are immediately faced with the questions of “HOW?!” “WHEN?!” 

“Paul, are you saying you were saved from the body of this death or are you saying God will save you in the future?”

Well, the answer is “yes!”  God will renew these bodies of death so that they are no longer stained and corrupted by sin.  We will get into that later in chapter 8.  But we can stop for a sec and give thanks to God that that is our coming hope! 

But what about in the meantime?  How are we saved from this cycle of defeat here and now? How does God save this wretched man in the meantime as I live life on a daily basis? How do we avoid this cycle of defeat, this body of death ruling our experience? 

Hang on

Note the end of verse 25.  This is Paul’s conclusion of the matter

“So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.”

Paul’s conclusion is that he is a torn, conflicted being.  The mind, the new man, the new nature of Christ within us will always serve the law of God!  Paul says “with my mind, I myself.”  This is who Paul really is.  But there is the body of death—the flesh—and his conclusion is that the flesh will always serve sin.  This is a massive truth. 

Your flesh will always serve sin. You cannot help your flesh be better.  This means you will always be disturbed by how corrupted your flesh is…or you should be. (you might be blind to it)  It means you will never have any reason to exalt yourself because you know the darkness within you. 

Now, that’s how we end chapter 7.  Do you see why we can’t just stop there? We get this quick moment of celebration and hope that Jesus has and will save us from this sad picture of the flesh and sin, but then we are quickly met with the question of “HOW?” How does Jesus save us?  How do we get free from the cycle of defeat?  CHAPTER 8! 

 

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, 

because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

 

This is the power of our position IN CHRIST.  We are not condemned because while we still have the flesh, the flesh no longer rules!  The flesh is no longer our operating system! It has been dethroned!  We are no longer defined as “in the flesh” because we are IN CHRIST!  And in Christ, you are not condemned.  Yeah, but what if I’m not in Christ?” Do you believe in Jesus, have you received His gift of grace and salvation?!  You are not condemned. “Yeah, but what if..what about…”You are not condemned.  

The law or the principle that the Spirit of life itself resides in you because you’re in Christ and Christ is in you—that law, principle overcomes, sets you free from verses 14-24, the cycle of defeat, the reign of the flesh. 

 

For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, 

in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

 

This right here is the answer to the “HOW?”  How does God save us from the body of death through Christ? 

Be dethroning the flesh.  As children of God, we are those who walk (live) according to the Spirit of God.  Remember last week, we are set free so we can serve IN the newness of the Spirit?  The Spirit of God now rules our heart and life.  That “mind” Paul talks about is no longer bullied into the corner by the flesh.  That mind is Christ on the throne of our life!  The Spirit of God reigns within the children of God! 

Now, I believe we can let the flesh back on the throne if want because that’s what our temptation is.  The flesh screams to have control again!  And if we let the flesh back on the throne, we will see Romans 7:14-24 in our lives.  Christ is not going to bully his way to the throne.  If we decide to let the flesh reign, Christ will vacate the throne until we let him have it back. 

 

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

 

You couldn’t please God before you were saved, and now that you’re saved, you still can’t please God in your flesh—when flesh is on the throne. There’s another way. 

 

You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.

 

Beloved, we are IN CHRIST, IN THE SPIRIT.  Stop living in the flesh.  Stop trying to please God and do what’s right while simultaneously keeping flesh on the throne. It’s not gonna work. 

You’re free from every fear you have. 

We don’t even know what to do with a statement like that because it’s too simple and too intense for the flesh.  

You will always be accepted, loved, held, and safe in Christ.  Another stun ray to the flesh.  Live in this truth.  That’s life in the Spirit.  

Even this week as I was working through this and asking God to make it real in my life, and when fear or anxiety or temptation came, there were many moments when I just claimed this.  I just said I’m in the Spirit, and it washed me.  That simple.  It shifted my perspective.  It elevated me above the crap of the flesh.

“Man, my co workers are killing me.” I am in the Spirit of God and I walk according to Him. 

“I am so stressed out, I have so much anxiety.” I am in the Spirit of God and I walk according to Him. 

“I keep giving into temptation” I am in the Spirit of God and I walk according to Him. 

“I want to give up”  I am in the Spirit of God and I walk according to Him. 

And a quick caveat for clarity:  The Spirit of God does not rescue us from emotions we need to work through.  I’m not saying, “chant this mantra, and immediately you will feel free and better.”  This truth sets you free to face and deal with your emotions, because there’s nothing to fear.  You are in the Spirit of God.  You are safe in Christ.  Your finances are in His hands.  Your life and eternity are in His hands.  Walk in the Spirit beloved. 

Let’s finish with Galatians 5:16

 

Galatians 5:16

16 I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 

 

conclusion

How do we walk in the Spirit?  There’s more to say, but it’s as simple as trusting Jesus.  Trust His power to help you, trust His love and grace never stop flowing to you, trust there’s no condemnation from God towards you. trust that He is enough, don’t fear, don’t run from hard, painful things. He’s got you, You are in the Spirit.  You have the power of Christ, your emotions don’t rule you, your pain doesn’t rule you, your fears do not rule you. 

Get up my brother, arise my sister.  Go forth in the power of the Spirit and sin no more. 

PRAY

VERSE 9

If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. 

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