Scripture: Romans 7:7-25
Observation: Because of our human, sinful nature, we have trouble obeying the law of God. The law itself is good (it came from God himself), but because we are human, we are so often slave to our sinful and human desires. As Paul says, we so often want to do what is right but we can’t because the sin living in us is so strong. However, there is something that can free us from living this life of destruction – and that’s Jesus Christ our Lord.
Application: For years, I was the world’s most cliché interviewee in the world. When asked what my greatest strength was, I said I was a perfectionist. When asked what my greatest weakness was, I said I was a perfectionist.
A word of advice if you’re currently applying for a job, internship, fellowship, or anything else that may ask you to describe your strengths and weaknesses: Don’t use perfectionism and please, please don’t use it as both your strength and your weakness. It sounds lame and overused and we all know NOBODY’S PERFECT. (Disclaimer: Except Jesus, of course.)
So, I had to face reality -- I wasn’t perfect, but I always strived to be. I wanted to “live up to my potential.” I wanted to check my boxes. I wanted to do the right thing. But inevitably, something would get in the way of that. I’d try to do the right thing, but it was really hard. I’d try to do the right thing, but my feelings would get in the way. I’d try to do the right thing, but I had a lot of the wrong people around me telling me that the wrong thing to do was actually the right thing to do. I’d try to do the right thing, but leggings are JUST SO COMFORTABLE that I gave in and wore them like they were pants. (I know, I know. I embarrass myself.)
Paul understands this dichotomy. We aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to one another but I gotta be honest – the fact that Paul, the guy that practically wrote half of the New Testament, struggles with wanting to do what’s right but somehow still does what’s not makes me feel like I’m not alone. He gets it! Look at verse 15 and then at 18-20. As if that’s not enough, he says it again in verse 21:
“I have discovered this principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”
Me too, me too!
So why do I do it? Why do I make decisions out of emotion instead of submission? Why do I make decisions out of what other people tell me instead of what God says?
Paul tells us that there’s another power within us – a power that opposes good and prefers evil. That power is sin. Our intentions are good -- we want to obey God’s commands, but our sinful nature prevents us from doing that.
Our sinful nature tells us to make decisions out of our own emotions, our own hurts, our own insecurities or vulnerabilities. Our sinful nature tells us to do what’s easy or comfortable. Our sinful nature tells us it’s okay to take shortcuts. Our sinful nature tells us to protect ourselves, our time, our resources instead of pouring them out for others. Our sinful nature tells us it’s okay to be selfish just this one time.
Our sinful nature jacks us up. It makes us look at ourselves before others. But, thank goodness there’s a better way that Paul shares in verses 24 & 25:
“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We’re all gonna mess up. We’re all gonna need God’s grace. But, we don’t have to be slave to sin. Don’t let your mind fool you. Don’t let your emotions deceive you. Don’t let your selfishness destroy you.
Here’s what you do: ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” If you need to, go dig out your childhood jewelry box and find your rainbow colored “WWJD?” bracelet -- because living like Jesus is the only way we can overcome ourselves.
Jesus was generous, kind, patient, and loving. He was confident and strong and selfless. He loved the hurting, the broken, the poor, the abandoned, the unwanted. He was fully submitted to the will of his father. He was full of hope and faith and joy.
So, live like Jesus today. And when it’s time make a decision, just ask: WWJD?
Prayer: God, I can get so tied up in my own desires, my own nature, my own life. I pray for a selfless heart today, that I wouldn’t simply desire to do what is right, but that I would fight my sinful nature everyday and truly do what is right. I pray for the courage, strength, and boldness to make decisions pleasing to you. Amen.