Dluxe's World

Thursday, December 14

A War Within: Romans 7 [3]

Checkity Checka Part One and Part Two before diving in here...

In the the last couple posts, I've attempted to show that Paul's description of indwelling sin in Romans 7:14-25 is intended to describe the struggles of believers. Having defended that view, we're left with the obvious question: In the words of Lon Solomon, "So What?" How should this passage's rather shocking description of sin's continuing influence in us effect how we live day-to-day?

Though there are clearly many points that could be made, allow me to lay out three:

1) Recognize the power of the Gospel and the greatness of our salvation. If you've read any of my Bible posts, you know that I'm a stickler of big chunks of Scripture read in context. This time is no different. Consider our 'problem passage' and the read Paul's continuation in Romans 8.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:25-8:4, ESV)

Now, that is good news. Paul joyfully proclaims the mystery of the Gospel: Though our flesh is weak and sin is ever-present with us, we have been freed from condemnation through the shedding of our Savior's blood. Our justification, our legal right-standing, before a holy God is secured because of the Cross.

But I think it's interesting to look at the text of verses 3-4 (the 2nd bolded verse above) and hang a little bit of meaning on word 'in'. Isn't it interesting that Paul doesn't say, "in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled for us"? I mean, that's a true statement. Christ did fulfill the law for us...

But I think Paul is driving at something else here - namely our walking (acting) in accordance with the law through the power of the Spirit. Look at the continuation of the passage:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (verses 5-11)

The Gospel goes beyond our justification and into our sanctification. We are called to 'set our minds on the Spirit', who 'will also give life to [our] mortal bodies'. The law of sin and death at work in us (see 7:22-23) is no longer all-powerful for those who are in Christ - those who have the Spirit of Christ. We have been given salvation from sin through the cross and spiritual strength to resist sin ('life in our mortal bodies') for Christ's glory!

So, the foundational principle for wrestling with sin day-to-day must be an affirmation of the Gospel and our dependence on the Spirit of God which empowers us. I guess that's two points... But who's counting?

So, how do we build in our self and increasing reliance on the Spirit's work? What can we do to condition our hearts with the Gospel?

2) Saturate ourselves with Scripture. The foundation of our spiritual 'training' must be time spent in prayerful study of God's word. Consider these verses...
My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!

When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame! (Psalm 119:25-31)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Among many, many others (including basically the whole of Psalm 119)... Our increasing capacity to live in Spirit is honed through the Spirit's application of Scripture to our lives. If we fail to feed the 'new man' in us with Truth, we are effectively telling the Holy Spirit to build a house in us while denying Him the wood and nails. When we hide God's law in our hearts, we increase our capacity to resist sin.

Think of it this way: We have an easy time resisting overt sins while we're at church. We're singing, meditating, and studying from God's Word together. What is it that keeps us resisting sin when we walk out of the church? Who is preaching to us in those moments when sin is right there in front of us? If we have planted our roots in God's Word, we can preach to ourselves in those moments and drink living water, rather than suck up sips from the mud-puddle before us.

And that, folks, is as close to poetic as I get.

3) Through reliance on the Spirit, develop Holy habits. There are tons of great books that explore this topic (and varying facets of it) in depth... So I don't want to dwell here for long. Besides, at least 60% of my readers just worked through one such book in our ABF. So, let me simply ground this principle in Scripture:
[Christ's] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence... For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3,5-8)

When we recognize the glory of the Gospel and what has been given to us, one outcome should be that, in our joy, we seek to shape our behaviors to glorify Christ. This is not 'pure discipline' in our flesh, or we'd fail. Rather, having saturated ourselves with the Word, we lean on the Spirit and struggle to bring our flesh into concert with God's purpose for us.

Let me bring this to a close with a quote from J.C. Ryle's landmark book, Holiness:
[One] mark of growth in grace is increased holiness of life and conversation. The man whose soul is growing gets more dominion over sin, the world and the devil every year. He becomes more careful about his temper, his words and his actions. He is more watchful over his conduct in every relation of life. He strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things and to follow Him as his example, as well as to trust in Him as his Savior. He is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making "Higher!" "Upward!" "Forward!" "Onward!" his continual motto (Phil. 3:13). On earth he thirsts and longs to have a will more entirely in unison with God’s will. In heaven the chief thing that he looks for, next to the presence of Christ, is complete separation from all sin. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased holiness.

May we grow in the lavish grace we've been shown, and glorify God with our lives!

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