Last week we saw Peter tell us that some of our desires wage war against us. Then we saw Rick Warren give a list, by no means complete, of seven destructive thought patterns, and suggest that in Romans 8, Paul of Tarsus gives us a cure for each one. Let’s take a look at one of them.
This one is rooted in our repeated failure to live successfully. Here’s how Paul of Tarsus described it (notice he’s writing in the first person, present tense):
I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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….[I]n my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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. (Romans 7:18-19, 22-23)
How often, at the end of the day, are you ashamed of the way you handled a situation? How often does your memory remind you of the way you messed something up a year or a decade ago? How does that feel? Are you ashamed of how you acted?
Noted New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce writes, “Paul continues to speak in the first person singular…present [tense]…Paul himself knows what it means to be torn this way and that by the law of his mind which approves the will of God, and the law of sin and death which pulls the other way (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Romans Eerdmans 1963, 150-151).
But then there’s a surprising change. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:1-2, New Living Translation 1996. In other words, there’s a way out – a way to freedom from the feeling of being torn because of my inability to consistently do the good I want to do and to avoid the wrong things I repeatedly do. And the way out is not to try harder, to read more books or to attend more seminars – though those might all help somewhat.
Paul continues that the problem, which every human faces, was so serious that it took the willing death of the only perfect human who ever lived. God…sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins….[We] no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 8;3-4, New Living Translation 1996
Here’s how the antidote to shame works:
1. God loves you so much that He voluntarily died to set you free of the consequences of all your failure. Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel acceptance and love even with all your imperfections? That’s the picture.
2. God has given us His own Spirit so that you have a new power to respond and act in a more healthy way. Being human, you’ll keep getting it wrong often enough (remember the present tense above) but when you’ve given Jesus control of your life, you continue to get the benefit of His loving sacrifice for you, and of His Spirit to help you do better.
Charles Stanley writes, We are not talking about perfection. In fact, you will hear more apologies from the lips of those who walk by the Spirit than any other group of people….Spirit-filled believers…have their down times. They don’t win every battle. Doubt and temptation take them out of the race from time to time. But their recovery time is remarkably short. They don’t stay down. And once they are back, it’s as if they actually benefited from the experience.” The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life Thomas Nelson 1992, 99
Freedom from shame – even though you’re not perfect and know it! Freedom because you’re loved, you’re rescued, you’re empowered. Freedom even though you know you’ll mess up again tomorrow. How does that sound?