As those who trust in Jesus, we know that sin and death no longer have the final say in our lives. Jesus has triumphed. He is alive, and he will come back soon to be with us forever. Nothing can snatch me or you from his hands.
But how does being a Christian affect the way that I live my life until his return? Says Paul: it changes everything. If we died to the power of the law with Christ and are now united with the one who was raised from the dead, then we can now produce a harvest of good deeds for God.
How? Well – it’s because we are in a different relationship to the law. And by the law I mean God’s instructions for living a holy life. Since God is holy, he calls his people to be holy and gave them laws that describe what holiness looks like.
When we were controlled by our sinful natures , our sinful desires were aroused by the law to the point where we did sinful deeds. Not that the law causes us to sin. No, the horror of sin is that it takes what is good and twists it into an abominable weapon against us. When I learn that something isn’t right – sin prompts me to try it. I wish it weren’t so – but it is. Sin uses God’s guide to righteousness and inclines me in the opposite direction.
But as a Christian, I am dead to the law: it was fully applied to Jesus. I share in his death and new life. The law’s reach cannot go beyond the grave! So I am free to serve God by living according to the Spirit rather than the law. As much as sin inclines me away from holiness, God’s Spirit now is at work within me to live a life that pleases God. And God is far stronger than any force of sin. We’ve seen this already in chapter 5!
The issue was never with the law. The issue was always with me. I, like Paul, know myself to be all too human – a slave to sin. How many times have I done things knowing them to be wrong – knowing that I don’t want to be that person. Says Paul – its sin living in me that does the wrong. I am like a prisoner to the sin in me.
Yes – I want to do right – but fail. I want to do good – but don’t. I don’t want to do wrong – but then I find myself doing it anyway. There’s a double-mindedness to me. In myself I am convinced that God’s way is the right way to live. But sin walks me down the opposite path.
There’s some question as to who Paul is speaking about here in Romans 7. Is he speaking about himself before he became a Christian – or about his struggle with sin as a Christian. For me, I think a mixture of the two. Paul is speaking in the present tense. He knows that he is dead to sin. He knows that he now lives according to the Spirit and can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. But he also knows that there is a battle happening. When we become Christians we are not yet perfect. There is still sin within us (Romans 7:23), pulling us away from God.
How can anyone live a life of freedom from sin and death????
The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. He is our freedom. He is our hope. He is our future. In him, sin’s control over us has been declared ended. And the dominant power at work in those who follow Christ is now not sin, but the Spirit of God – as we’ll see in the next chapter!
Lord – thank you for saving me. I’m so sorry for all the times I do wrong. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you that in Christ, I have been declared right in your sight. I am still so aware of the sin living in me – pulling me away from you. Thank you that you are stronger. Thank you that you live in me because of Jesus. Please keep weakening sin’s grip. Make me more like Jesus, Father. Please, make me experience more of my freedom from sin and death.