Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Know, But I Don't. I Know Not To, But I Do!

                The things that I want to do, those things I never get done. Those things that I don’t want to do, those are the things that I find myself doing. The words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 spoke volumes to me today, and I am sure that you as well can relate to what Paul was writing to us. The things that we want to do, we don’t do them. The things that we don’t want to do- darn it; those are the things that we end up doing! Oh, what a wretched woman that I am! But, I don’t have to beat myself up over it anymore.
Since I am my own worst critic, sitting before the Lord this morning, I once again went through my list of things that I have not done. The list of things that I know He wants me to do, but I haven’t done a single one of them. My sin list seems to get longer and longer as I walk with Him, instead of shorter and shorter. But, I don’t have to let this get me down ever again! I thank God for Jesus Christ who has freed me from all these “to do’s and not to do’s”. As I was praying this morning, I realized that my God is not a God of requirements. He does not require me to do these five things for the day before He will answer my prayers. He does not list off my “don’t do” these things for the day and then expect me to uphold them. No, my God is a God who says, “I only require that you seek Me, love Me, and follow Me.” He doesn’t look at my growing list of sins anymore- even though I do.
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                “For what I am doing; I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (Romans 7:15). And we all said “Amen!” The things that I don’t want to do, those are the thing that I do. I don’t want to covet, yet I do. I don’t want to gossip, yet I do. I don’t want to speak ill of a sister in the Lord, yet I do. The things I don’t want to do- I do them. We all do. It seems like a never ending battle, one that I don’t think I will ever win. Thankfully, I will win this battle, because the battle has already been won. Jesus Christ, He won this battle for me, all I have to do now is wait for Him to come and get me from the battlefield.
                All of us can relate with Paul and his words to us in Romans 7. But something I realized today as I went back and read through this chapter is that even though I still sin, it no longer has the power to keep me from God. You see, Paul tells us that the law says “don’t” and the sin that resides in us says, “Go ahead, do it”. Sin living in us is like a toddler. You tell your toddler “Don’t touch that electrical socket, it will hurt you.” But what does that toddler do? They go and stick their finger right into it. Sin takes advantage of the “No’s” of God’s law and commandments and uses them against us.
                Go back to Genesis 3, Eve listened to God and knew that she was not to eat of that tree otherwise she would die. But then sin, the serpent, comes in and makes her question God. The serpent says, “Are you sure that is what God said?” Sin makes us doubt the goodness of God’s commandments. It makes us doubt His divine wisdom and divine protection over us. Sin says to us that the consequences of our actions won’t be as bad as all that. Sin says to us that God doesn’t know what’s best for us. Sin, our flesh, makes us question the law of God which causes us to break the law and bear fruit unto death. (Romans 7:5)
                Paul tells us in Romans 7:6 that “we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter.” We were held under the law. The list of requirements, the do’s and don’ts that were contrary to us, made us not want to keep the laws and commands of God. Sin instead, makes us want to go against God and His law. Sin makes us want to fight against the commandments of God, separating us from Him.

                Sin takes advantage of the commandments and twists my weak flesh until all I want to do is sin against God. Romans 7:7 tells us that we would not even “have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” Sin takes this commandment and says, “Look at all that your neighbor has, why should they have all that and you have none?” Sin takes the commandments of God and twists them around until I fall into its trap and I end up coveting my neighbor’s new Lexus.

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                Sin takes what is good and uses it to produce in us evil desires, giving our flesh what it wants. Sin uses the commandments of God and deceives us into thinking that God doesn’t know what is best for us, and deceives us into believing that what we are doing is not bad. Sin makes us doubt the preeminence of God which then causes us to feel guilty, shamed and condemned before God. But God has redeemed us from this law that sin uses against us. Even though, in our bodies, in our flesh we want to covet our neighbor’s Lexus, in our inward beings, in our minds we serve Christ.
                God has taken the requirements, the “do’s and the don’ts” of the law that sin uses against us and nailed them to His cross. He knows that the commandment to not covet makes us want to covet. He knows that we are never going to be able to fulfill the requirements of the law because sin lives in us. He knows that when He says “Don’t” our flesh will do the opposite. That is why Jesus came, that is why Jesus died. Jesus, God in the flesh, was the only one who could defeat sin through the law because it was His law and He alone had the power to do so.
                Our God is not a God of do’s and don’ts. He commands us to love Him, follow Him and seek Him. As long as we are in these fleshly bodies, there will be a constant war within us. The things we want to do, like love our neighbor, we won’t do them. Instead we will gossip and speak ill against them. But, the difference is that we are no longer under the guilt and the shame that comes after we sin. We are no longer under the condemnation and separation that sin brings into our relationship with God. We are no longer bearing death, but we are now bearing life; because in our minds we serve the law of God, even though in our flesh we still serve sin. (Romans 7:25) This, however, does not mean that we can go and sin it up then come to God when we want. No, the Holy Spirit living in us will still point out our sins, and we must be willing to repent when we do those things we know we shouldn't be doing.
                 So, what then does the Lord requires of us if He no longer requires that we walk according to the law?  “He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) The requirements to keep the law, to keep the Ten Commandments are gone. We no longer have to feel this guilt and this shame when we do not keep them- because let’s face it; we don’t keep the commandments, never have and never will. We have sin living in us. Sin takes these commandments and tries to bring us into bondage, and tries to separate us from God. But, Jesus came and He fulfilled the whole law and all the Ten Commandments so that these requirements are no longer a necessity to fulfill to have a relationship with God our Father.
                There is a desire in me to obey God, but there is also a desire to go my own way. As long as we live in these bodies of flesh and blood we will battle with our fleshly desires to disobey God. Every time we hear the commands of God, our minds will desire to obey but our flesh will seek to disobey. The difference is that the guilt, the shame, and the condemnation we feel when we give into the desires of our flesh are gone. We have been set free, not from sin, but from the distance, and the separation that sin put between us and God. We no longer have a distant relationship with the Father that could only be attained through requirements; because sin no longer has the power to keep us from God. For those of us who have been born again, sin no longer produces death in us; now when we sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us, not condemning us, but bringing us to a place that produces repentance that leads to life.
                So, how then do we resist the sin that wants to separate us from God? How do we live in the Spirit and not in the flesh? How do I do the things I know to do, instead of doing the things I don’t want to do? We set our minds on Christ. Paul encourages us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16) This does not mean we won’t ever sin, it just means that we will no longer allow sin to have the power to separate us from God ever again. The guilt, the shame and the condemnation that sin brought into our lives is gone, nailed to the cross, Jesus took all of that upon Himself. (Colossians 2:14) Sin will try to use the commandments of God to distance you from Him. But, God has taken that power away and sin no longer has that power over you.
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                If we set our minds on Christ, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. And on those days that our flesh wins, and there will be those days when our flesh wins, we don’t have to be burdened with the guilt and shame of it anymore. Those days that I don’t do the things I know I am to do, but instead do those things that I don’t want to do- sin no longer has the power to make me feel bad about it. Sin no longer has the power to separate me from God. Instead, now, because I live in the Spirit, when sin takes occasion to
deceive me it no longer kills me. Instead it now produces repentance and draws me to God. It no longer separates me, because God has set me free from its power. The only way sin can separate us from God is when we allow it to rule over us, instead of allowing Christ to rule in us.

                Even though I do not do the things that I want to do, that I know to do; no longer will I allow sin to make me feel guilt, shame or condemnation. When I do those things that I don’t want to do, I know that my God has taken the guilt and I can run to Him when I fail. “There is therefore, now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) Even though I serve the law of God in my mind, my flesh still desires to serve sin. But, I thank God that Jesus Christ has delivered me and that one day soon, He will come and get me from this battlefield and take me to a place where I no longer have to strive against my flesh. Don’t let sin take you away from God, instead let God by His Spirit draw you too Him when you do not do the things that you know you are to do. Amen?