July 26-27, 2014
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Romans 7:15-25a
“THERE’S A WAR GOING ON (IN THERE)!”
1. Fighting its battles gives glory to God.
2. The war’s victory is the glory of God!
Romans 7:15-25a (NIV 1984) “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 I know that nothing good lives 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 what I do is not the good I want to do; no, 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: When 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 the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The wife and children have gone to bed. The Christian man sits alone at his computer. The temptation comes to surf the net, look at a little porn. He knows it’s wrong. What will he do? The Christian alcoholic sits alone, the desire to open the bottle so strong. What will she do? The Christian student looks at the test and panics. “I don’t know this stuff! But if I sit up a little bit I should be able to see her paper.” Will he cheat? The social group is together again. Once again the character assassination begins. She knows she should speak up and defend. After last time she promised herself she would speak up. Will she? Brothers and sisters, these real life examples and many more typify the struggles with sin that go on many times each and every day in the lives of Christians. There’s a war going on in there! It’s a war between the desires of our own sinful nature and the desire of our true self, the Christian, follower of Christ that we really are. Oh, thank you, Holy Spirit, for having someone like the Apostle Paul own up to it so the rest of us can talk about it in the joy of the Gospel. We do that today as we acknowledge before God and each other, there’s a war going on in there!
The first thing we need to remember is that fighting its battles gives glory to God. A war is made up of many battles. You can win many battles and still lose the war. Likewise you can lose battles and still win the war. When it comes to the sin war inside of us we get to rejoice that there are battles to fight. Really? Why? Having those battles, those conflicting desires between what sin wants and what Christ wants is a sign that your faith is alive and active. If there is no struggle against sin and temptation faith is dead or so weak it can’t even speak. And you know what? The closer you grow to Jesus the more sin struggles you’ll feel. It’s like going into your basement with the lights off and all looks well. Then you turn on the lights and you see there is a stain on the carpet, cobwebs in the corners. When we are far away from Jesus we might think we look OK but when you draw near Jesus in His word and your life is held up to the standard of holiness that covers deeds, words, thoughts, motives, Oh my, you see your sinfulness and once you are aware, like the Apostle Paul, the Christian response is to fight, fight the sin battles. It gives glory to God to call sin sin and want it out of our lives.
Some of those battles you will win. “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.” Paul points to sin living in him getting him to do some things he hates. Paul is also reminding us that the real us, the Christian, loves God’s law and calls it good. In other places Scripture says resist the Devil and he will flee from you. No temptation comes except what is common to man and God will always give you a way out. In Ephesians 6 Paul reminded us of our spiritual armor and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word to defeat temptation. Jesus showed us how it is done perfectly when He used God’s Word to defeat the Devil’s temptations for us. And the better you know God’s word when those temptations come to peek or to cheat or to keep quiet when you should speak up the Spirit will be with you reminding you of the Word and you will win some of those sin battles. That gives glory to God! And if you are a believer who has to fight some of those sins that have addictive qualities like alcohol or drug abuse or pornography, keep fighting, and know that there are believers who have won those battles.
But what about the battles we lose? Paul owned up to if well for himself. “I know that nothing good lives 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 what I do is not the good I want to do; no, 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.” You know how it goes. You beat one temptation and another pops up. Satan does not give up on us easily. He keeps at you. The sinful nature is real. There is no sinful nature bypass surgery we can have. There is no heart transplant that takes out all our sinful nature desires and replaces them with only good. Paul acknowledges that for us too. “So I find this law at work: When 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 the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am!”
No, what a wretched man I am. What wretched folks you are. Be honest. God already knows. He knows the lust thoughts we entertain like guests instead of kicking out as the enemies they are. He knows our cheating hearts, our greed and discontent, our shading of the truths, half truths and outright lies we tell to protect ourselves, make ourselves look good or someone else bad. He knows how we weakly sit by while someone else’s reputation is trashed but quickly and proudly defend our own name. He knows the foul mouth we try to hide behind closed doors or at least when the pastor’s not around. He knows that we like Paul know that His law is good and we don’t keep it anyway. What wretched men, women and children we are. We are helpless to win this war. With the Apostle Paul we cry out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
And before we even asked, God answered. We aren’t just wretched men, women and children. We are wretched men, women and children who know Christ! “Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Oh, yes, there’s a war going on in there. Some of its battles we win and some of them we lose but the victory in the war belongs to God. Granting us that victory is the glory of God. Did you notice that in the Old Testament reading where Moses wanted to see the glory of the Lord? What did God say? "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” God’s glory is to have mercy and compassion on sinners. What did Jesus say in the Gospel lesson? Oh, beautiful words for sin sick sinners who are disappointed with themselves again. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It is the glory of God that the victory in the war was won by Jesus. It is the glory of God for Jesus to give that victory to newborn babies brought to Him at Baptism and to the aged Christian with all the sin scars that come along with life. It is the glory of God to give that victory to those who despair of their own worthiness and to withhold it from those who arrogantly think they are “good enough” on their own.
“But, Pastor,” you might say, “I’m tired of it all. I just want to be done and get it right for a change.” Hear God’s Good News. You have. You can. You will. You have. God already sees you as a perfectly obedient child, a perfect sin fighter in Jesus. You have His righteousness. You can. With the help of the Lord we overcome. Fight the battles. You can win some. The fact that you are fighting is the real joy. You will. While you can’t get rid of your sinful nature on earth, it won’t follow you into heaven. At death God separates it from you for good. How fun will that be! Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord indeed! Amen.