Section Two: The Personal Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Three: Being Extremely Valued.
Our reading for today: Romans 7: 14-25 (MsgB)
I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Have you ever believed that the apostle Paul, who wrote a good portion of the New Testament, was some kind of a super-saint? A man who was so godly and so good that he listened carefully to everything Jesus asked of him and did it, without hesitation or without any thought to his own personal loss or harm to himself?
Well, it’s easy to see why some people view Paul, and the early apostles and leaders of the church, in that way. Certainly, they were men and women of great distinction. But here’s a little secret. The next time you start to feel like a spiritual peewee, comparing your puny little Christian life next to the life of a super-saint, I suggest that you quickly pull out this little section of Romans (today’s passage) and read it out loud to yourself. If you’re like me, it won’t take very long for the bubble to burst on that illustrious picture of super-saints and perfect people who lived in biblical times!
In truth, the key to a successful and fruitful Christian life (just in case you’ve not been paying attention over the last 19 weeks!) is what Paul states clearly here in Romans 7. When you and I find ourselves unable to do and say all the good things we know we want to do and say as Christ-followers…
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.
So based on that answer, allow me to take us, over the next few weeks through a series of practical exercises which will help us; 1) become much more honest about our true weaknesses, and 2) as a result, learn to lean more on Jesus and His ability to accomplish things on our behalf that we simply cannot.
Now, the first step of facing up and fessing up to our weaknesses is not an easy thing to do. But keep in mind that everything we are about to discover about ourselves is not a surprise to God! In fact, He already knows everything about us; our good, our bad, and our ugly, and He has already committed Himself to loving us and leading us past those things that we are so ashamed to talk about with others. In truth, I don’t believe Paul could have written so honestly about himself and his glaring weaknesses here in Romans 7, if he hadn’t already come to the full realization that there was absolutely nothing that could separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Remember last week’s text from Romans 8?
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
So, let’s get ready. Next time, I’m going to ask you to begin looking a bit under the hood of your life, asking the Holy Spirit to better reveal your inner self and the deep wounds and weaknesses that can actually cripple us, making us so unsure of ourselves that we spend the majority of our lives repeating and repenting of our sin, and much less time actually moving beyond it.
I suggest that you bring a flashlight, a pad of paper and a pen, and a good attitude. An attitude much like we find in Paul here in Romans 7. Keeping in mind that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God, in and through our life in Jesus Christ. And in the end, you and I can walk away with a much better awareness of ourselves, our weaknesses, and how, in and through Christ, you and I can walk through the remainder of our lives with the taste of victory in our mouth instead of the on-going sourness of defeat.
My prayer: Jesus, like Paul, I’m simply a self-centered sinner. I hope to do better, but many times, find myself failing where I once hoped to succeed. Thank You, that You never leave me, nor forsake me in such times, but that You invite to lean even more into You. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: As I prepare to look deeper at my weaknesses and shortcomings, what can I do to put aside my shame and embarrassment, so that I might be fully present and engaged as I invite Jesus into my search?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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