Why do I feel at war with Myself?

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16 Jun 2024

Why do I feel at war with Myself?

Passage Romans 7:7-25

Speaker Steve Nichols

Service Morning

Series Training for Mission

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Passage: Romans 7:7-25

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognised as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Thank you, Catherine, for reading that tongue twister of a passage so clearly for us. Do keep it open everybody. If you've got a Bible there you will find it helpful. I know we say this every week, but you really will find it helpful this morning to have that passage open. We're going to look through it together and I'll point out a few verses on the way.

But you need to have the Bible open to cheque that. What I'm saying is what the Bible says and I'm not just making it up. So here we go. We're in a study together and if you are joining us today for the first time, a very warm welcome to you.

We are halfway through a series in Paul's letter to the Romans. In this little chunk we're going to go up to the end of chapter eight, but today we're going to try and do the whole of chapter seven in one go. Doctor Martin Lloyd Jones, who was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London in the 19th century, sixties and seventies. He took twelve years going through Romans. I'm glad he's not here to hear us this morning, rushing through this at high speed, but there we go.

Why don't we pray? We need the Lord's help as we tackle this passage, as we listen to his word. Heavenly Father, we thank you that we have your word written down on the page and we can read it. We're free to read it and to have a Bible ourselves. But Lord, we need your help.

We need your holy spirit to help us understand what we're reading. Please help us this morning. Help us to see what these words mean, what they mean for us and strengthen us. We pray by your spirit to live for you in the week ahead. We ask in Jesus name, amen.

Well, here's a why do we still sin if we are Christians? Why do I sin? Why do you sin? If I have died with Christ and been raised with him to new life as we thought a week or two ago, if his holy spirit lives in me, if I've been born again, if I've passed the point of no return, why does it feel the same so much of the time? Why do I still struggle with the same old things that I struggled with?

I might make some progress, but there are many things in life where it just feels the same. There's a battle. Why do I feel at war with myself? As our sermon title asks us, we're going to try and answer these questions from Romans chapter seven this morning and as I say, it will be helpful to you to have it open in front of you. And we're going to look at that passage in two sections from verses 13 to seven to 13.

These verses don't speak to us directly. Paul is answering an objection that might be raised by a jewish Christian in Rome. But it's important for us still to understand it. There'll be applications for us. And in the second half of the passage, verses 14 to the end of the chapter, he's speaking to us directly.

But let's pin our ears back and listen to the whole thing. Now. I hope you're not squeamish this morning, Heather. I wonder if we might just put the slide on, please. I hope you're not squeamish this morning because we're going to start in verses seven to 13 by observing.

No, it's not working. Could you advance the first slide, please, Heather? By observing an autopsy, maybe it's just as well you can't see the slide. There it is. Medics, anybody who's had a medical background.

You won't be phased by this at all, though the rest of us are maybe not so enthusiastic. But verses seven to 13, the pathologist is the apostle Paul. And on the slab in front of him, the subject is a first century jew born in Tarsus in modern day Turkey, Saul of Tarsus, Paul's old self before he became a Christian. For the first time in history, the pathologist is also the patient. Paul is going to look at his old life, what he was before he became a Christian.

Now we're with Paul. He's writing this letter to the Christians in Rome. Do you remember? And the Christians in Rome were an international mix of Jews and Gentiles, jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And Paul is writing to this international church, an international gospel.

And the reason he sets out the gospel as he does in his letter to the Romans, is because he wants the Romans to share in his international mission as he takes the gospel to Spain. So in his letter he sets out in a lot of detail the gospel. And at this point in Romans he's anticipating some objections that some of the jewish Christians in Rome might be raising. He said, after all, in Romans chapter five, verse 20, that the law of Moses was brought in so that sin might increase. He said in chapter six, verse 14, that sin shall no longer be your master because you are not under law, but under grace.

And he says in chapter seven and verse five he talks about sinful passions that were aroused by the law. Now we can hear what his jewish christian readers in Rome might be thinking. Are you saying, Paul, that the law of Moses, which we've had for centuries and that God gave us. Are you saying that the law is a bad thing? Well, here we go.

That's the question. That's the objection Paul is going to answer. Have a look down at verse seven. Romans chapter seven, verse seven. What shall we say then?

Is the law sinful? Certainly not, Paul says. Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. The law wasn't sinful, Paul says, but it revealed my sin.

I was struggling to think of an illustration, but I think a passage like today, we need as many visual aids as we can have. So here we go. The law was like my spirit level. A spirit level shows how wonky the wall is. But the spirit level can't make the wall straight.

Paul says, the law of God showed us our sin. It showed us the sin in our hearts and how fallen we are. But the law itself couldn't fix us. It only revealed what was going on inside us. Or to change the metaphor, the law was like a scalpel, the surgeon's scalpel.

It showed what we were like inside. It cut us to the heart and showed what was really going on. So here we go. Paul puts on his apron, ready to do his autopsy. In verse nine.

Have a look down at verse nine, he says, once I was alive apart from the law. But when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

Saul of Tarsus, as he once was, was brought up with the law, with the law of Moses. He says elsewhere that he was circumcised on the 8th day. He was the son of a pharisee. At no time did he have. At no time did he not have the law.

The law was always with him in one sense. But there was a time, he said, when he lived in blissful ignorance of what the law really demanded. There was a time he didn't submit to the law's true purpose, which is to trust in Jesus, just the opposite. There was a time that he thought he could keep the law himself. He was alive, he says, I was alive.

There was a time when I was alive. Not in the sense of being spiritually alive, in the sense of being blissfully ignorant. He was like the young ruler who came to Jesus in Luke chapter 18 and said that he'd kept all God's commandments since he was a boy. Of course, he hadn't really, but he thought he had. And Paul looks back on his old life.

Well, he summarises it for us in Philippians, chapter three. He says, as for legalistic righteousness, I was faultless here in Romans seven. Once I was alive, he hadn't yet realised that his failure to obey the law had brought him under the sentence of death, that, unknown to him, he was carrying a fatal disease. And one slice of the scalpel showed him how ill he was.

Here's the slice of the scalpel, verse seven. Verse seven. I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, you shall not covet, but sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment produced in me every kind of coveting.

Now, why is it that when Paul read that law of the Ten Commandments, you shall not covet? Why was that the scalpel that really cut to his heart and showed him what was going on? Why not? You shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall have no other gods before me. Well, all the other ten commandments, we might kid ourselves we've kept them if we haven't broken them outwardly, if we haven't bowed down to idols, if we haven't physically murdered somebody.

But the commandment not to covet is the only commandment that is directed entirely at our hearts. At our hearts. Paul thought that he had kept all the law. But then when that commandment came to him with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, suddenly he realised he was a coveter. He was as sick as everybody else.

He had thought up to that point that he was well, sitting up in the public gallery in the courts of God's justice, looking down on everybody else. Suddenly he read that commandment. He realised he was in the dock.

But worse than that, not just that, he was guilty like everybody else, but sin, the sin in him saw that commandment as an opportunity. Sin rubbed its hands as he read that commandment and thought, oh, I can make the most of that. And he became even more covetous. Sin multiplied itself. He found himself, it produced in him every kind of coveting.

A few years ago, when we lived in Plymouth, I was helping out with a mission to one of the schools in the city. And we would go in for a week or so every year and we'd take a school mission. We would take assemblies and lessons. And I remember one lesson I was taking and I was telling the boys about who Jesus is and what he had done for them, dying on the cross and rising again. And the teacher sitting at the back of the class couldn't stand it any longer and got really cross and shouted out, your job is to tell these boys how to behave, not to talk about Jesus.

Your job is to tell them some morals. And I think probably a lot of people in our world today think that's the job of the church, to teach our society morals. Well, Paul says, the law, morals can't change our hearts. Morality. In fact, teaching morals has the effect of making society even more immoral.

Because the sin within us sees a law, rubs its hands and says, oh, I'd like to break that law. It sees an opportunity to multiply itself and society's got enough problems on its own without the church inciting it to be even more immoral, isn't it? We've got enough problems of our own. So Paul looks back and he sees himself. And there it is on the slab.

He sees his old life, he's dissecting it and he realises that he was carrying a fatal disease all his life without realising it. And suddenly, with the right conditions in place, sin springs to life and he realises. And I wonder if youve had that experience yourself as youve read the Bible. I have. Youre happy enough.

And you read a part of the Bible and suddenly it comes to you with great conviction. Maybe it's a wrong attitude. You think, oh, God is speaking to me there. Feels very personal. Maybe it's a relationship that needs to be put right, a habit that we've fallen into.

God's word comes with a power like a knife, and it cuts open our hearts. Well, that's a good thing. When that happens, we should be thankful to God for that. And we need to respond to that. Take that to heart, pray about it, act on it.

That was Paul's experience.

There we are. The law itself wasn't sinful. Isn't sinful. It's holy, righteous and good. But the fact that sin can take what is holy, righteous and good and make more sin just shows how sinful sin really is, how big the problem is.

Paul says. So that's the autopsy. That's Paul's old self, verses seven to 13. Now the autopsy is over. In verses 14 to 25, though I'm afraid, folks, Paul is going to take up his scalpel once again and this time he's going to operate on himself.

There we go. Maybe we'll just advance that slide. We're about to have our lunch in about half an hour, aren't we? We don't really want that image. Thank you, Heather.

But that man is Leonid Rogozov and I came across him the other day. He was a soviet naval surgeon. In the early sixties, he was on an expedition in the Antarctic and he was the only doctor in the expedition. And as the expedition went on and they were weeks and weeks from home, he developed symptoms and he realised that he had appendicitis and there were no other doctors on the ship and so he had to operate, I know, on himself under a local anaesthetic so that he could do it, but not too much because he wanted to keep a clear head. Well, I'll leave you to investigate that yourself later on with Google if you want to.

But that is what Paul is doing in the second half of our passage. He is now turning from his past experience before he became a Christian to his present experience as a Christian. And eagle eyed among. You will notice that the verbs changed from the past to the present tense. He's operating on himself, he's cutting away.

He's saying, this is what it is like now to be a Christian. Verse 14. Look down at verse 14. We know that the law is spiritual, he says, but I am unspiritual, literally carnal, fleshly, sold as a slave to sin.

Now let's just pause the way Paul talks about himself in these verses in the rest of this chapter. It's made some christians think that he cannot be talking about himself as a Christian. After all, can a Christian really say of themselves that they are sold as a slave to sin? In verse 18, he says something quite similar. He says, I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it.

Now, many have said that's simply not true of a Christian. We've been raised to new life. We have God's spirit within us. We've passed the point of no return. So a number of Bible commentators have said this isn't Paul's present experience as a Christian.

He's still looking back to the time before he became a Christian, when he was a law abiding, God's fearing jew. Now there are many christians, Bible believing, Bible loving christians, who hold that view and we respect them for it. But I'm not sure I agree with it. I don't think there's any contradiction personally between what Paul has said earlier in his letter and what he's saying now. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I waved around this, my needle and thread?

If you were here, you remember that? And we said that the moment we trusted in Jesus, we were united to him by faith. And we said we were like the thread, united to the needle. Where the needle goes, the thread always follows. And if we're united to Jesus, then we're united to him in his death and his resurrection.

So the Christian not only says, Christ died for me at the cross, but the Christian can say, I died with Christ at the cross. The old me was put to death. And not only can the Christian say, Jesus rose for me at the resurrection, but there's a sense which I rose too. I've been raised to new spiritual life. We talked about that a week or two ago.

Now, while the death of the old humanity at the cross was real and never to be repeated, it's not yet complete. And this is the source of Paul's struggle and of every Christian's struggle. The victory has been won decisively. D day has happened, but the war is going on. It will go on for a while longer.

Our struggle against sin, our natural self, is still alive and kicking and fighting back. We've been born again in Christ. For sure. We passed that point of no return, but we're still products of our first birth in Adam. Until our bodies are laid in the grave, that struggle will continue.

The problem isn't that we have bodies. Bodies are good things. God made us with bodies and we'll have bodies forever. The problem is that Christ's redemption at the cross has not yet been applied to our bodies.

What a wretched man I am, Paul says in verse 24, who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus is going to deliver us through death from our sinful bodies. One day he's going to come again. He will raise our bodies.

His redemption will be applied to the whole of creation and sin will be a thing of the past. Our hope as christians isn't that when we die we're going to go up to heaven and strum harps wearing nighties forever and ever. Now our hope is that our bodies are going to be redeemed. But it hasn't happened yet. Folks.

You don't need me to tell you that we see it in the mirror every day. Until that moment, we are members of two humanities, a new humanity in Christ, that new life we've begun, the old humanity that we're still part of in Adam. We are contradictions. We're at war with ourselves. So in this passage, Paul speaks as if he were two people.

Theres a new Paul and an old Paul, an inner man and an outer man. If you have a look down at verse 22, he says, in my inner being, my new life in Christ, I delight in gods law, but I see another law at work in me waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me in his mind. Verse 25. Paul is now a slave to God's law. He belongs to God.

He wants to live God's way. But in his flesh he remains a slave to the law of sin. And if you're a Christian then you know that struggle. Deep down you don't want to sin anymore. Deep down you want to live Christ's way.

We sing these wonderful hymns, these wonderful songs, don't we? Oh, I'm never going to sin again. Its so wonderful. Moments later, seconds later were sinning.

Our flesh craves the old ways. So Paul says in verse 18. And this is so familiar to us. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do. This I keep on doing. If I do what I do not want to do, it's no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Two sets of desires fighting it out inside us. And until our bodies die and are put to rest in the grave, they will remain a battleground of that fight.

Paul is genuinely perplexed. He says, I can't understand why I'm like this. I can't understand what I do. But he knows that it is the christian experience. Only the person who has the law of God written on their hearts by the spirit has the desire to live for Christ in their inner being.

They delight in God's law. The unbeliever in chapter eight, verse seven, as he was before he was a Christian. Well, he says in chapter eight, verse seven, the mind of the unbeliever is governed by the flesh. It is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.

Only the Christian struggles against sin. Friends, if you find yourself weary from fighting against sin, you think, am I ever going to change? Am I ever going to overcome this sin? That is a good sign. That's a sign that the spirit of God is at work in you.

Oh, we ought to expect progress against sin. Of course we should. But the fact that we're struggling against sin is a sign that we are a Christian.

Now it grieves me when I sin never used to. Now I'm aware of my sin in a way I never was before. I guess the danger is that I might be so overwhelmed by it sometimes I might think, well, am I even a Christian?

When we feel like that, then we must lift our eyes from ourselves and lift our eyes to Christ. See, there's a danger when we study Romans chapter seven that we separate it from Romans chapter eight, which we're coming to next week. Romans chapter eight is true of every christian, just as Romans chapter seven is. So look how chapter eight begins. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Yes, there is a struggle. Yes, we feel at war with ourselves. Yes, sometimes we feel we are not making any progress at all and we feel more sinful than we were. But there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We have been united to him, we have died with him, we have been raised to new life with him.

We are covered with his righteousness. There is no condemnation for us. We have started to live the new life. We passed the point of no return.

Although we're members of two humanities, the new one and the old one, the inner one, the new one is the fundamental one. That's our real new identity. The old me died with Christ at the cross. The new me rose with Christ from the grave. I've passed that point of no return.

But my flesh still has some catching up to do. And one day it will.

Do you know the story of John Bunyan? John Bunyan, the tinker from Bedford in the 17th century. He wrote Pilgrim's progress. Perhaps you've read it, the best selling book in the whole world after the Bible. Well, Bunyan spent twelve years in prison and during that time he wrote that wonderful book.

But he was frequently overwhelmed with his sin. He talked in his autobiography about somehow, sometimes thoughts rushing into his mind and him being horrified by the things he was capable of thinking and feeling. I dont know if youve ever had that experience. I have. Gosh, am I really thinking that?

Where did that come from? Well, that was Bunyan's experience. And so overwhelmed was he, sometimes he wondered if he could even be a Christian. Well, in his autobiography he records that one day he was walking in the countryside and as he was walking suddenly this sentence popped into his head. Your righteousness is in heaven.

Your righteousness is in heaven, he says. I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand. Your righteousness is in heaven. There was my righteousness, he said, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me that I lacked his righteousness, for it was ever before him. In other words, he is saying it didn't matter.

It made no difference to my standing before God how successfully I was struggling against my sin. If I'd had a good day as a Christian, I was not more righteous in God's eyes. If I had failed yet again in my struggle against sin, I was not less righteous in God's eyes because I was united to Jesus. He's my righteousness, and nothing can change that.

So why do I sin? If I've died with Christ, been raised with him, why am I still struggling against so many sins? Why haven't I changed? Why do I feel at war with myself? Paul says we've changed.

For sure we have. We've started the new life. But Christ's work hasn't been fully applied yet. Until our bodies are raised and we have resurrection bodies. There is still this battle going on.

But there is no condemnation any longer for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let's take comfort from that this morning and come back next week. And let's hear some good news from Romans, chapter eight. Shall we? Let's pray before we sing again.

We pray with these words from verse 24. What a wretched person I am. Who will save me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord, our father. We thank you for Jesus our saviour and our deliverer.

That he has delivered us by his death and resurrection. That he is delivering us by his spirit as we battle against sin. And that he will deliver us when he comes again and raises our bodies, and they'll be free of sin forever. We thank you that as we fight against sin, that there is no condemnation for us anymore. So, Lord, fill us with your spirit.

We pray at the start of a new week to live the new life that you have given us in Jesus. To be the people you've raised us and called us to be. And may all the glory and praise be yours now and forever. Amen.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognised as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and therefore may not be 100% accurate

Thank you, Catherine, for reading that tongue twister of a passage so clearly for us. Do keep it open everybody. If you’ve got a Bible there you will find it helpful. I know we say this every week, but you really will find it helpful this morning to have that passage open. We’re going to look through it together and I’ll point out a few verses on the way.

But you need to have the Bible open to cheque that. What I’m saying is what the Bible says and I’m not just making it up. So here we go. We’re in a study together and if you are joining us today for the first time, a very warm welcome to you.

We are halfway through a series in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this little chunk we’re going to go up to the end of chapter eight, but today we’re going to try and do the whole of chapter seven in one go. Doctor Martin Lloyd Jones, who was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London in the 19th century, sixties and seventies. He took twelve years going through Romans. I’m glad he’s not here to hear us this morning, rushing through this at high speed, but there we go.

Why don’t we pray? We need the Lord’s help as we tackle this passage, as we listen to his word. Heavenly Father, we thank you that we have your word written down on the page and we can read it. We’re free to read it and to have a Bible ourselves. But Lord, we need your help.

We need your holy spirit to help us understand what we’re reading. Please help us this morning. Help us to see what these words mean, what they mean for us and strengthen us. We pray by your spirit to live for you in the week ahead. We ask in Jesus name, amen.

Well, here’s a why do we still sin if we are Christians? Why do I sin? Why do you sin? If I have died with Christ and been raised with him to new life as we thought a week or two ago, if his holy spirit lives in me, if I’ve been born again, if I’ve passed the point of no return, why does it feel the same so much of the time? Why do I still struggle with the same old things that I struggled with?

I might make some progress, but there are many things in life where it just feels the same. There’s a battle. Why do I feel at war with myself? As our sermon title asks us, we’re going to try and answer these questions from Romans chapter seven this morning and as I say, it will be helpful to you to have it open in front of you. And we’re going to look at that passage in two sections from verses 13 to seven to 13.

These verses don’t speak to us directly. Paul is answering an objection that might be raised by a jewish Christian in Rome. But it’s important for us still to understand it. There’ll be applications for us. And in the second half of the passage, verses 14 to the end of the chapter, he’s speaking to us directly.

But let’s pin our ears back and listen to the whole thing. Now. I hope you’re not squeamish this morning, Heather. I wonder if we might just put the slide on, please. I hope you’re not squeamish this morning because we’re going to start in verses seven to 13 by observing.

No, it’s not working. Could you advance the first slide, please, Heather? By observing an autopsy, maybe it’s just as well you can’t see the slide. There it is. Medics, anybody who’s had a medical background.

You won’t be phased by this at all, though the rest of us are maybe not so enthusiastic. But verses seven to 13, the pathologist is the apostle Paul. And on the slab in front of him, the subject is a first century jew born in Tarsus in modern day Turkey, Saul of Tarsus, Paul’s old self before he became a Christian. For the first time in history, the pathologist is also the patient. Paul is going to look at his old life, what he was before he became a Christian.

Now we’re with Paul. He’s writing this letter to the Christians in Rome. Do you remember? And the Christians in Rome were an international mix of Jews and Gentiles, jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And Paul is writing to this international church, an international gospel.

And the reason he sets out the gospel as he does in his letter to the Romans, is because he wants the Romans to share in his international mission as he takes the gospel to Spain. So in his letter he sets out in a lot of detail the gospel. And at this point in Romans he’s anticipating some objections that some of the jewish Christians in Rome might be raising. He said, after all, in Romans chapter five, verse 20, that the law of Moses was brought in so that sin might increase. He said in chapter six, verse 14, that sin shall no longer be your master because you are not under law, but under grace.

And he says in chapter seven and verse five he talks about sinful passions that were aroused by the law. Now we can hear what his jewish christian readers in Rome might be thinking. Are you saying, Paul, that the law of Moses, which we’ve had for centuries and that God gave us. Are you saying that the law is a bad thing? Well, here we go.

That’s the question. That’s the objection Paul is going to answer. Have a look down at verse seven. Romans chapter seven, verse seven. What shall we say then?

Is the law sinful? Certainly not, Paul says. Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. The law wasn’t sinful, Paul says, but it revealed my sin.

I was struggling to think of an illustration, but I think a passage like today, we need as many visual aids as we can have. So here we go. The law was like my spirit level. A spirit level shows how wonky the wall is. But the spirit level can’t make the wall straight.

Paul says, the law of God showed us our sin. It showed us the sin in our hearts and how fallen we are. But the law itself couldn’t fix us. It only revealed what was going on inside us. Or to change the metaphor, the law was like a scalpel, the surgeon’s scalpel.

It showed what we were like inside. It cut us to the heart and showed what was really going on. So here we go. Paul puts on his apron, ready to do his autopsy. In verse nine.

Have a look down at verse nine, he says, once I was alive apart from the law. But when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

Saul of Tarsus, as he once was, was brought up with the law, with the law of Moses. He says elsewhere that he was circumcised on the 8th day. He was the son of a pharisee. At no time did he have. At no time did he not have the law.

The law was always with him in one sense. But there was a time, he said, when he lived in blissful ignorance of what the law really demanded. There was a time he didn’t submit to the law’s true purpose, which is to trust in Jesus, just the opposite. There was a time that he thought he could keep the law himself. He was alive, he says, I was alive.

There was a time when I was alive. Not in the sense of being spiritually alive, in the sense of being blissfully ignorant. He was like the young ruler who came to Jesus in Luke chapter 18 and said that he’d kept all God’s commandments since he was a boy. Of course, he hadn’t really, but he thought he had. And Paul looks back on his old life.

Well, he summarises it for us in Philippians, chapter three. He says, as for legalistic righteousness, I was faultless here in Romans seven. Once I was alive, he hadn’t yet realised that his failure to obey the law had brought him under the sentence of death, that, unknown to him, he was carrying a fatal disease. And one slice of the scalpel showed him how ill he was.

Here’s the slice of the scalpel, verse seven. Verse seven. I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, you shall not covet, but sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment produced in me every kind of coveting.

Now, why is it that when Paul read that law of the Ten Commandments, you shall not covet? Why was that the scalpel that really cut to his heart and showed him what was going on? Why not? You shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall have no other gods before me. Well, all the other ten commandments, we might kid ourselves we’ve kept them if we haven’t broken them outwardly, if we haven’t bowed down to idols, if we haven’t physically murdered somebody.

But the commandment not to covet is the only commandment that is directed entirely at our hearts. At our hearts. Paul thought that he had kept all the law. But then when that commandment came to him with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, suddenly he realised he was a coveter. He was as sick as everybody else.

He had thought up to that point that he was well, sitting up in the public gallery in the courts of God’s justice, looking down on everybody else. Suddenly he read that commandment. He realised he was in the dock.

But worse than that, not just that, he was guilty like everybody else, but sin, the sin in him saw that commandment as an opportunity. Sin rubbed its hands as he read that commandment and thought, oh, I can make the most of that. And he became even more covetous. Sin multiplied itself. He found himself, it produced in him every kind of coveting.

A few years ago, when we lived in Plymouth, I was helping out with a mission to one of the schools in the city. And we would go in for a week or so every year and we’d take a school mission. We would take assemblies and lessons. And I remember one lesson I was taking and I was telling the boys about who Jesus is and what he had done for them, dying on the cross and rising again. And the teacher sitting at the back of the class couldn’t stand it any longer and got really cross and shouted out, your job is to tell these boys how to behave, not to talk about Jesus.

Your job is to tell them some morals. And I think probably a lot of people in our world today think that’s the job of the church, to teach our society morals. Well, Paul says, the law, morals can’t change our hearts. Morality. In fact, teaching morals has the effect of making society even more immoral.

Because the sin within us sees a law, rubs its hands and says, oh, I’d like to break that law. It sees an opportunity to multiply itself and society’s got enough problems on its own without the church inciting it to be even more immoral, isn’t it? We’ve got enough problems of our own. So Paul looks back and he sees himself. And there it is on the slab.

He sees his old life, he’s dissecting it and he realises that he was carrying a fatal disease all his life without realising it. And suddenly, with the right conditions in place, sin springs to life and he realises. And I wonder if youve had that experience yourself as youve read the Bible. I have. Youre happy enough.

And you read a part of the Bible and suddenly it comes to you with great conviction. Maybe it’s a wrong attitude. You think, oh, God is speaking to me there. Feels very personal. Maybe it’s a relationship that needs to be put right, a habit that we’ve fallen into.

God’s word comes with a power like a knife, and it cuts open our hearts. Well, that’s a good thing. When that happens, we should be thankful to God for that. And we need to respond to that. Take that to heart, pray about it, act on it.

That was Paul’s experience.

There we are. The law itself wasn’t sinful. Isn’t sinful. It’s holy, righteous and good. But the fact that sin can take what is holy, righteous and good and make more sin just shows how sinful sin really is, how big the problem is.

Paul says. So that’s the autopsy. That’s Paul’s old self, verses seven to 13. Now the autopsy is over. In verses 14 to 25, though I’m afraid, folks, Paul is going to take up his scalpel once again and this time he’s going to operate on himself.

There we go. Maybe we’ll just advance that slide. We’re about to have our lunch in about half an hour, aren’t we? We don’t really want that image. Thank you, Heather.

But that man is Leonid Rogozov and I came across him the other day. He was a soviet naval surgeon. In the early sixties, he was on an expedition in the Antarctic and he was the only doctor in the expedition. And as the expedition went on and they were weeks and weeks from home, he developed symptoms and he realised that he had appendicitis and there were no other doctors on the ship and so he had to operate, I know, on himself under a local anaesthetic so that he could do it, but not too much because he wanted to keep a clear head. Well, I’ll leave you to investigate that yourself later on with Google if you want to.

But that is what Paul is doing in the second half of our passage. He is now turning from his past experience before he became a Christian to his present experience as a Christian. And eagle eyed among. You will notice that the verbs changed from the past to the present tense. He’s operating on himself, he’s cutting away.

He’s saying, this is what it is like now to be a Christian. Verse 14. Look down at verse 14. We know that the law is spiritual, he says, but I am unspiritual, literally carnal, fleshly, sold as a slave to sin.

Now let’s just pause the way Paul talks about himself in these verses in the rest of this chapter. It’s made some christians think that he cannot be talking about himself as a Christian. After all, can a Christian really say of themselves that they are sold as a slave to sin? In verse 18, he says something quite similar. He says, I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it.

Now, many have said that’s simply not true of a Christian. We’ve been raised to new life. We have God’s spirit within us. We’ve passed the point of no return. So a number of Bible commentators have said this isn’t Paul’s present experience as a Christian.

He’s still looking back to the time before he became a Christian, when he was a law abiding, God’s fearing jew. Now there are many christians, Bible believing, Bible loving christians, who hold that view and we respect them for it. But I’m not sure I agree with it. I don’t think there’s any contradiction personally between what Paul has said earlier in his letter and what he’s saying now. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I waved around this, my needle and thread?

If you were here, you remember that? And we said that the moment we trusted in Jesus, we were united to him by faith. And we said we were like the thread, united to the needle. Where the needle goes, the thread always follows. And if we’re united to Jesus, then we’re united to him in his death and his resurrection.

So the Christian not only says, Christ died for me at the cross, but the Christian can say, I died with Christ at the cross. The old me was put to death. And not only can the Christian say, Jesus rose for me at the resurrection, but there’s a sense which I rose too. I’ve been raised to new spiritual life. We talked about that a week or two ago.

Now, while the death of the old humanity at the cross was real and never to be repeated, it’s not yet complete. And this is the source of Paul’s struggle and of every Christian’s struggle. The victory has been won decisively. D day has happened, but the war is going on. It will go on for a while longer.

Our struggle against sin, our natural self, is still alive and kicking and fighting back. We’ve been born again in Christ. For sure. We passed that point of no return, but we’re still products of our first birth in Adam. Until our bodies are laid in the grave, that struggle will continue.

The problem isn’t that we have bodies. Bodies are good things. God made us with bodies and we’ll have bodies forever. The problem is that Christ’s redemption at the cross has not yet been applied to our bodies.

What a wretched man I am, Paul says in verse 24, who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus is going to deliver us through death from our sinful bodies. One day he’s going to come again. He will raise our bodies.

His redemption will be applied to the whole of creation and sin will be a thing of the past. Our hope as christians isn’t that when we die we’re going to go up to heaven and strum harps wearing nighties forever and ever. Now our hope is that our bodies are going to be redeemed. But it hasn’t happened yet. Folks.

You don’t need me to tell you that we see it in the mirror every day. Until that moment, we are members of two humanities, a new humanity in Christ, that new life we’ve begun, the old humanity that we’re still part of in Adam. We are contradictions. We’re at war with ourselves. So in this passage, Paul speaks as if he were two people.

Theres a new Paul and an old Paul, an inner man and an outer man. If you have a look down at verse 22, he says, in my inner being, my new life in Christ, I delight in gods law, but I see another law at work in me waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me in his mind. Verse 25. Paul is now a slave to God’s law. He belongs to God.

He wants to live God’s way. But in his flesh he remains a slave to the law of sin. And if you’re a Christian then you know that struggle. Deep down you don’t want to sin anymore. Deep down you want to live Christ’s way.

We sing these wonderful hymns, these wonderful songs, don’t we? Oh, I’m never going to sin again. Its so wonderful. Moments later, seconds later were sinning.

Our flesh craves the old ways. So Paul says in verse 18. And this is so familiar to us. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do. This I keep on doing. If I do what I do not want to do, it’s no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Two sets of desires fighting it out inside us. And until our bodies die and are put to rest in the grave, they will remain a battleground of that fight.

Paul is genuinely perplexed. He says, I can’t understand why I’m like this. I can’t understand what I do. But he knows that it is the christian experience. Only the person who has the law of God written on their hearts by the spirit has the desire to live for Christ in their inner being.

They delight in God’s law. The unbeliever in chapter eight, verse seven, as he was before he was a Christian. Well, he says in chapter eight, verse seven, the mind of the unbeliever is governed by the flesh. It is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Only the Christian struggles against sin. Friends, if you find yourself weary from fighting against sin, you think, am I ever going to change? Am I ever going to overcome this sin? That is a good sign. That’s a sign that the spirit of God is at work in you.

Oh, we ought to expect progress against sin. Of course we should. But the fact that we’re struggling against sin is a sign that we are a Christian.

Now it grieves me when I sin never used to. Now I’m aware of my sin in a way I never was before. I guess the danger is that I might be so overwhelmed by it sometimes I might think, well, am I even a Christian?

When we feel like that, then we must lift our eyes from ourselves and lift our eyes to Christ. See, there’s a danger when we study Romans chapter seven that we separate it from Romans chapter eight, which we’re coming to next week. Romans chapter eight is true of every christian, just as Romans chapter seven is. So look how chapter eight begins. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Yes, there is a struggle. Yes, we feel at war with ourselves. Yes, sometimes we feel we are not making any progress at all and we feel more sinful than we were. But there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We have been united to him, we have died with him, we have been raised to new life with him.

We are covered with his righteousness. There is no condemnation for us. We have started to live the new life. We passed the point of no return.

Although we’re members of two humanities, the new one and the old one, the inner one, the new one is the fundamental one. That’s our real new identity. The old me died with Christ at the cross. The new me rose with Christ from the grave. I’ve passed that point of no return.

But my flesh still has some catching up to do. And one day it will.

Do you know the story of John Bunyan? John Bunyan, the tinker from Bedford in the 17th century. He wrote Pilgrim’s progress. Perhaps you’ve read it, the best selling book in the whole world after the Bible. Well, Bunyan spent twelve years in prison and during that time he wrote that wonderful book.

But he was frequently overwhelmed with his sin. He talked in his autobiography about somehow, sometimes thoughts rushing into his mind and him being horrified by the things he was capable of thinking and feeling. I dont know if youve ever had that experience. I have. Gosh, am I really thinking that?

Where did that come from? Well, that was Bunyan’s experience. And so overwhelmed was he, sometimes he wondered if he could even be a Christian. Well, in his autobiography he records that one day he was walking in the countryside and as he was walking suddenly this sentence popped into his head. Your righteousness is in heaven.

Your righteousness is in heaven, he says. I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. Your righteousness is in heaven. There was my righteousness, he said, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me that I lacked his righteousness, for it was ever before him. In other words, he is saying it didn’t matter.

It made no difference to my standing before God how successfully I was struggling against my sin. If I’d had a good day as a Christian, I was not more righteous in God’s eyes. If I had failed yet again in my struggle against sin, I was not less righteous in God’s eyes because I was united to Jesus. He’s my righteousness, and nothing can change that.

So why do I sin? If I’ve died with Christ, been raised with him, why am I still struggling against so many sins? Why haven’t I changed? Why do I feel at war with myself? Paul says we’ve changed.

For sure we have. We’ve started the new life. But Christ’s work hasn’t been fully applied yet. Until our bodies are raised and we have resurrection bodies. There is still this battle going on.

But there is no condemnation any longer for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let’s take comfort from that this morning and come back next week. And let’s hear some good news from Romans, chapter eight. Shall we? Let’s pray before we sing again.

We pray with these words from verse 24. What a wretched person I am. Who will save me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord, our father. We thank you for Jesus our saviour and our deliverer.

That he has delivered us by his death and resurrection. That he is delivering us by his spirit as we battle against sin. And that he will deliver us when he comes again and raises our bodies, and they’ll be free of sin forever. We thank you that as we fight against sin, that there is no condemnation for us anymore. So, Lord, fill us with your spirit.

We pray at the start of a new week to live the new life that you have given us in Jesus. To be the people you’ve raised us and called us to be. And may all the glory and praise be yours now and forever. Amen.

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