September 1, 2011

Friday after the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning -Ps.51, 1 Sam. 23:7-18, Lk. 20:41-21:4
Evening - Ps.54, 57, Micah 7:1-9, Rom. 7:14

Commentary
Romans 7:14-25

It is very important to understand that every Christian struggles with temptation and sin every day. The reason for this is that we are still works in progress. Remember that we were inclined toward sin, and that God had to reconstruct us to incline us toward Godliness. This reconstruction is the essence of sanctification, and it is a continuing process in the life of the Christian. The point of our reading for tonight is to continue to show us that sanctification is a work of God in us, not the result of our own efforts to keep the moral teaching (law) of the Bible. That's a good thing, because even now we are unable to live up to the demands of the law of God. Even Paul faced temptation, and even he had to confess that his own growth in Godliness was the result of God reshaping his being. It was not the result of anything he achieved for himself by keeping the law.

Paul does not teach here that our bodies (flesh) are still under sin while our souls or minds (spirits) are not. He teaches that our natures are not fully reconstructed or inclined toward Godliness, and will not be as long as we live in this world. So our natures have divided desires. We want to please God by keeping the law and doing what is right (7:22), and, at the same time, we also want to please ourselves by indulging our natural appetites and desires, even when they contradict the law of God (7:23). These natural desires, along with the inclination to indulge them, are what Paul means by the word, "flesh" (7:18). Thus he writes those rather confusing words in verses 15-19. These verses simply mean he wants to do good, but often finds himself committing sin. The verses are the supporting arguments for the conclusion he draws in verse 21, "when I would do good, evil is present with me" (7:21). Our natural inclination to indulge ourselves cannot lead us into Godliness. It can not lead us to keep the law of God; it can lead us to break it. It will not lead us into sanctification; it will lead us back into sin. It is this tendency that must be overcome if we are to live Godly lives, and only God can overcome it. We are unable to reconstruct ourselves; this is why the entire process of sanctification, like justification, is a work done on us by God, not a work done in us by ourselves.

So, having made it clear that we are unable to make ourselves stop sinning and live for God, Paul asks, "who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" If he can't make himself stop doing the things that lead the soul into spiritual death (sin), who can? Can anybody? The answer is given in verse 25. It is Jesus Christ our Lord who delivers us. He delivers us from the penalty of our sin (justification), and from the tendency to continue in sin (sanctification).

The Prayer Book rightly teaches this. "Wherefore, let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life heareafter may be pure and holy," we are exhorted in Morning and Evening Prayer. "From "all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, Good Lord deliver us" we pray in the Litany. In these, and many other places, we are taught what Scripture teaches here and in other places, that it is God who accomplishes these things for us. He is the sanctifier of the faithful.

Please allow a few words of practical application. If the Apostle Paul wrestled with temptation and sin, we should expect to also. Some think battling temptation and sin are signs that you are not a Christian, but it may actually be a sign that you are. It may be a sign that you want to please God, and that you are becoming more aware and ashamed of your sin. It may mean you are resisting sin, fighting against it, and attempting to control your desires and passions rather than indulge them in opposition to the law of God. It may be a sign that God is sanctifying you, doing that work of reconstructing your nature and inclining you more toward good and Godliness. Therefore, be not discouraged if you are fighting this battle. Be discouraged if you are not.

Also, do not think you can accomplish this on your own. Paul couldn't, neither can you. Therefore, in faith, trust God to sanctify you. Trust Him to reconstruct you and enable you to live more and more for Him, and less and less for sin. Seek this from Him. Pray for it often. Then, in faith, do it.

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