January 28, 2018
Today, is the last Sunday in our sermon series called Reset. If you’ve missed any of them, you can listen to them all on our website. But the big idea to this series is considering how great it would be if we had a reset button to go back and undo all of the things we regret. Unfortunately, that button doesn’t exist. However, what we’ve seen so far is that we have in fact been reset. We saw that happen in our baptism. There God declared us not guilty of any of our past mistakes and sins. We saw how we are new creations not labeled by our failures. As new creations, we also don’t dwell in the past but press on to the goal of heaven that Christ won for us. This is who are in Jesus. This is what God has done for us.
But now that we’ve been reset, how is your reset life going? God has given you a clean slate. Yet, do you ever feel like no matter how fast you run from temptation, temptation always catches up to you? Now that you’re reset shouldn’t your life look differently? Shouldn’t you not struggle with the same things you struggled with in the past?
That’s what my friend thought. He lived a few doors down from me in college. He was studying to be a pastor. He was in God’s Word daily. But then he realized something. He continued to struggle with the same temptations, the same sin, that he used to. He thought he was growing in God’s Word, but he found himself falling into the same sin over and over again. And finally he began to question his faith. He started wondering, “Am I even a Christian? Should Christians struggle like this?”
Maybe you’ve felt that way before. I know I have. If I am a Christian and I’ve been reset, then I shouldn’t struggle anymore. Right? Wrong. Even the apostle Paul struggled with that.
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.
Paul had been reset. The Holy Spirit has worked faith in his heart that Jesus is his Savior. He knew and believed that his sins were nailed to the cross with Christ and that God sees him as his perfect, holy, and blameless child. In God’s eyes, Paul was a saint. He was holy because of Jesus. The same is true for you and me. We’ve had our sins nailed to the cross of Christ. Washed away in our baptism. God no longer sees our sins but he sees us perfect, holy, innocent.
And Paul, the saint, wants to live a life that is pleasing to God. He wants to follow God’s law perfectly. He sees all the actions that please God and in his heart Paul fully intends to do them. The Christian in him, the saint, says, “Yep, that’s what I want to do to please God!” And so he lives his day trying to please God by following God’s law.
But then evening rolls around and Paul takes inventory of his day. How did he do living up to God’s law? He checks what he has done or what he has left undone and discovers something horrifying: his performance doesn’t even come close to his intentions. He can’t live up to God’s law. He can’t live up to his standards. Paul doesn’t understand. He says, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do.” He wants to live up to God’s law, but instead he finds himself doing the very things that he has come to hate. The evil actions, the horrible words, the embarrassing thoughts. He continues to do the things he wanted a reset button for. Here’s what Paul realized…
Even though I’m reset, sin has a firm hold on me.
Paul was stating the struggle that we all face. We all face it because all have what Paul had. A sinful nature. That’s the part of us that loves to sin. Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin, the disease of sin has been passed down from generation to generation. And though we have been reset by Jesus, though our sins have all been nailed to the cross, even though we are a new creation, sin still lives in us, and there is nothing we can do to get rid of this nature.
This is extremely important to remember. Here’s why. Jesus doesn’t reset us and then send us off alone. He doesn’t say, “I’ve reset you, go the rest of the way.” No. No matter what stage of life we are in, we constantly need Jesus because sin still lives in each and every one of us. And if we look to control our sin by looking to our ability to follow God’s law, we will fail. Sin has a firm hold on me. Sin will over power us if we look to ourselves.
How many of you know who Bruce Banner is? How many of you know who the super hero the Hulk is? They are the same person. Normally, Bruce Banner is fine. He lives life normally. That is until he starts to have emotional stress. It could be stress from inside, or it could be stress from the outside on him. But whenever he starts to feel emotional stress he starts to transform into the Hulk and he rages. No matter how hard Bruce Banner tries to contain the Hulk inside the Hulk comes out. He struggles and he struggles to keep the Hulk in check. That’s what Paul was saying. No matter how hard he tried, he continued to do the things he didn’t want to. Why? Because sin had a firm hold on him.
Does Paul’s struggle sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself not wanting to sin but then end up doing it? Have you tried as hard as you can to not sin and yet it almost seems uncontrollable?
- You come home from work and it has been a long day. You know you shouldn’t blow up at your family and take it out on them. You don’t want to either. But it feels impossible not to. Finally, you can hold it back anymore and you do.
- You’re in a conversation with your friends and soon it turns to gossiping. You know God’s law says not too. Nor do you want to. You want to obey God’s law. And you try and you try and finally, you can’t take it. You jump right in.
- You’re home alone and bored. You know what God says about lusting after someone else. You know he says that is adultery. You don’t want to look at those websites, but you can’t seem to help it. It won’t leave your mind.
- As much as you hate anger, you can’t seem to quit it. instead you seem drawn to it.
- As much as you hate hurting other people’s feelings, you can’t seem to stop yourself when someone upsets you.
- As much as you hate worrying and don’t want to do it, your thoughts get drawn to all the worst possible situations and you can’t stop worrying.
- You can’t stop having those perverted thoughts.
- You can’t stop thinking of ending your life.
The list goes on and on, “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. Why can’t I stop these things?” Because sin has a firm hold on us. And we can’t do it.
But Paul knows something that we need to as well. Paul says, “It is not me who does this but the sin living in me.” Is Paul dodging responsibility? No. He knows he’s responsible for his sin. However, he knows that his sinful actions don’t define who he is. Rather, his new man, the new creation, the Christian in him defines who he is. He is a forgiven child of God. That’s what defines him. The same is true for us. Our sins don’t define who we are. It goes back to the fact that we are new creations. This is how God sees us.
Paul realizes that sin has a firm hold on his life, and he’s frustrated.
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.
No matter how hard I try, sin frustrates the reset life.
No matter how hard Paul tries sin is right there frustrating his reset life. It is kind of like a movie or a cartoon where the person has a good angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other shoulder. The angel is giving the good and right advice, but the evil angel is frustrating the plans of the good angel. That’s what is going on inside of us. As Christians, we want to do good. We want to live for God, but when we look to our own efforts we get frustrated. Sin continues to influence our decisions. And it is so frustrating. All we want to do is not struggle with it anymore. All we want to do is please God and live for him but I can’t. Sin continues to influence me and frustrates my plans.
That’s what Paul realized. He realized that there was a war going on inside of him. His sinful nature vs his saint nature. And when we try and fight this war on our own, we will always lose and be frustrated. That’s the point Paul is at. And finally he is left defeated because he realizes he can’t accomplish what God’s law says. He can’t do it. The only thing he could do was cry out, “What a wretched man I am.” And that’s where we are left when we look to ourselves to stop sinning. We are left realizing we are wretched people.
But did you catch how Paul ended this section? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. And then he says this.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
A reset life has been rescued by God.
On our own, we are doomed. We are bound by sin, overcome by sin, unable to save ourselves. The truth is we are going to mess up. We are going to sin because we still have the sinful nature living in us. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.
It is because of Jesus that there is no condemnation. That’s what our sins deserve. Our sin deserves eternal punishment in hell. And yet, that’s not what God gives us. Not because of anything we’ve done, but because of Jesus. That’s the whole reason he was born into the world. He was born to rescue us from our sins and from the punishment that our sins deserved. Jesus said, “I know you can’t defeat sin. So I’ll do it for you.” And he lived perfectly in your place.
He was born into this world to pay the price for each and every one of our sins, and that’s exactly what he did. He rescued us by taking our punishment. He saved us by taking responsibility for all of our sins and going to the cross where he died to pay for them. Sin is no longer our master, but Jesus is.
See, Jesus didn’t pay for our sins so that we could have a license to sin. Rather he died to give us the freedom to not sin. Now, sin doesn’t have ultimate control over our lives. It has influence on our lives, but it doesn’t have control over our lives. Our lives belong to Jesus. And one day, Jesus is going to raise our bodies back to life and he is going to give us a new body. In our heavenly body we will no longer be frustrated by sin because sin will have no hold on us whatsoever. Sin will be completely wiped out.
Until then, we will struggle in the battle against sin. But know that Jesus is still with you and working right now. What is he doing? He is empowering you in this fight. He gives you strength to fight temptations. He gives you patience to endure and persevere. And when we fail and we fall into sin, he is there to lift us up and remind us that he forgave us. He is there to remind us that we are his blood bought children. He is there to remind us every single day that he has reset us.
So, are you a Christian if you still struggle with sin? Absolutely. If you stopped struggling, then there’s reason to be alarmed. So keep up the struggle. Keep looking to Jesus as your deliverer. Keep looking to him for forgiveness, strength to endure temptations, and look to him for peace and rest as you live your reset life.