‘So, I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; It used the commands to kill me.’
Romans 7 vs 10 – 11
Forgive me for commencing with two biblical texts, as it is not my intention to hurl the bible at you this morning. However, to fully grasp the ramifications of Romans 7 vs 10 -11, we should also consider what Jesus says about life.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
John 10 vs 10
In other words, the law leads to death, and Jesus (grace) leads to life. The life Jesus is talking about here is one of joy, peace, contentment, love, freedom, good health, and provision.
Note – not excessive wealth and riches, but provision – what we need on a day to day basis.
Unfortunately these are the things Satan steals from us all-too-regularly.
He’s stealing those very desires we discussed last week – happiness, Freedom, and Peace of mind. For this is what occurs when we fix our minds on the law – what we must and mustn’t do to obtain / maintain God’s approval.
When we measure God’s approval of us via what we have or haven’t done, we set ourselves up for a vicious cycle of guilt, shame, fear, and dread.
Permit me to break this down.
Guilt – of making the same mistake over and over again
Shame – of making the same mistake over and over again
Fear – of things going wrong as a result of making the same mistake over and over again
Dread – of when we’ll inevitably make the same mistake again
Recognise the pattern?
The problem with focusing one’s mind on the law is that it fixates attention on one’s failings. And the more one considers one’s failings, the greater the feelings of guilt, shame, and defeat, leading to fall after fall after fall. It’s a painfully vicious cycle.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the law is bad. On the contrary, it is perfectly good! But, that’s precisely the problem. It is perfectly good, and we are far from perfect; hence incapable of ever fulfilling it.
As the apostle Paul said, anyone who tells you otherwise (that they do not sin) is lying. I’d even go so far as to say that person is an unhealthy influence, as he /she is inadvertently shackling you further with guilt, shame, fear, and dread.
The reason I’m so passionate about this particular topic is because I spent years focusing on the dos’ and don’ts of the law – constantly measuring my performance and assessing whether I’d done enough to placate my previous misdemeanours; and all the while dreading that inevitable next fall. It was a never-ending race against time – obey with all might during the good periods, give generously at church, and talk the talk, in the hope it would secure, all be it temporarily, God’s approval, and earn those much sought after brownie points. Not only was it mentally exhausting but I was perennially burdened with the thought of ‘how long will this last, and what will happen when I next fall?’.
If you’re experiencing something similar then I have a message for you.
Let go of all things law!!
Release everything and anything to do with what you must and mustn’t do, and focus only on this important truth;
‘Through Jesus, God has already forgiven you for ALL your sins – from the moment you entered earth until the moment you leave. Nothing and nobody can ever take that away. And as a result, God will forever love and approve of you, no matter what.’
‘Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.’
Romans 7 vs 25
I’ve read the above verse many times before and had always thought it meant some-kind-of miraculous spiritual experience. Actually I suppose it does; but not in the way I imagined.
We are super-naturally delivered from guilt, shame, self-condemnation, and hence the cycle of defeat, when we fix our minds on what Jesus has already done for us, and thereby how precious we are to God.
It is God’s love that delivers, and it is his love that heals. I am a living testament to this, as it was when I embraced his unconditional love that guilt, shame, and self-condemnation lost their hold on me.
Guilt, shame, and condemnation will always lead to committing the same mistake again.
Still struggling with the reality of not having to do anything to earn God’s love?
Go through the Gospel and take account of every time Jesus healed someone, then ask yourself this question;
‘Did Jesus ever demand or request anything before he healed them?’
At most, he may have asked, “what is it you want?’’, or “how can I help you?”.
This is the crux of who God is – a perfect love that always wants the very best for you.
Indeed, he wants the best for everyone.
I conclude with a conversation I had with an old school friend on Thursday evening.
The conversation unfolded as such;
HER: “Segun, I really believe God works in mysterious ways, and I want to talk to you about something that happened earlier today and see whether you think God may be at work.”
ME: “Yes, I believe he does work in mysterious ways. What happened?”
HER: “Okay, I know you might think this is silly, but I absolutely love my cat, and she’s been really really sick. It’s as though she might die any second, so I’m seriously stressed and worried about her. Anyway, I called one of my friends to tell her, only to find out she’s going through a very tough time – really tough time. So, I told her I’ll pray for her and that she should please pray for my cat. Thing is, she’s not a Christian; doesn’t believe in God. But she still said she will pray for my cat, and I know she will.
Do you think maybe God allowed my cat to be sick in order to pave the way for a relationship with her? And if that’s the case, then he’d better make sure my cat fully recovers. Anyway, I’m sensing this is God working in his mysterious way. In-fact, I’ve decided I won’t even discuss it with her, as I believe it is between her and God, and that I should allow him to do his thing”.
ME: “I agree. I think this could be God’s way of starting a relationship with your friend. And the fact she doesn’t believe in him yet is irrelevant. The truth is God loves everyone, whether they believe in him or not.”
HER: “Yea, that’s what I think as well. And despite what many may say or think, I know his love is always at work in the most simple and amazing ways. Oh, and by the way, make sure you pray for my cat as well.”
I should point out that unknown to her, I wasn’t in the best of moods on Thursday evening, as I had spent the latter part of the day worrying about a few things. However, she proved to be a huge blessing to me, as she unwittingly proceeded to confirm something God has been telling me for quite some time.
As I went to bed that night, the following thought came to mind;
‘Of-course her friend’s prayer will be answered. Just like Jesus healed so many that didn’t yet know or believe in him.’
Because God is Love.
If you’ve distanced yourself from God as a result of your thinking you’ve gone too far the other way, come back to his love. He loves you just as much today as he’s always done.
If you’re curious about Christianity but are reluctant to make that first step because of the dos’ and don’ts’, focus only on the reality of his unconditional love for you, and nothing else. Then find a church that is centred on the gospel – grace. Yes, do your research first. Don’t just go to any-old church. Better still, type ‘joseph prince sermons about God’s love’ in google search and then listen, listen and listen some more.
Focus on his love for you, as against the law, and leave the rest to God.