Wrestling With God’s Law

Date Preached: October 20, 2019
Topics: exposition
Scripture: Romans 7:7-25
Notes: Download PDF
Speaker: Gary Combs


Who’s winning the wrestling match inside of you? The truth is, no matter how long you’ve been a Christ- follower, in this world we will never be so mature in Christ as to no longer see sin in ourselves. The accusation that the church is full of hypocrites is only true if we claim to be without sin.

No, we are sinners saved by grace! We are no longer under law, but under grace. And having been saved by grace, we are being sanctified, made holy by God’s grace too. So, again we ask, “What good is the law?” In Romans 7:7-25, the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome that the purpose of the Law for the Christian was never to deliver them from sin, but to expose their sin and drive them back to total dependence on Christ. We can understand that the purpose of the law is not to deliver us from sin, but to expose our sin and drive us to total dependence on Christ.


Below is an automated transcript of this message:

All right, let’s continue our series through the book of Romans. We are in Romans, chapter seven, and we’re happy to be here with you this morning. I was talking to some of you before we began the service this morning. It is so encouraging for me as your pastor to hear you say, “man, we love the book of Romans and we love what God said through His Word. It’s so encouraging to be able to go through this book together with you.

We’re in Romans, chapter seven, and we’re picking up in verse seven, and we’re going to be going through the rest of this. We’ve entitled this particular sermon, “Wrestling with God’s Law, “ and I think you’ll see why. If you’ve ever read the book of Romans, chapter seven, you probably wrestled with reading it. It’s kind of hard to read because you you wonder, “what in the world am I talking about here?” It’s because there’s a wrestling match going on in chapter seven. Paul is talking about God’s law, and he’s been talking about it since earlier in chapter seven, and as has been his process. What he’ll do is he’ll make a statement that teaches us something. But then he anticipates our pushback question, our follow up question. He anticipates it. And so that’s what he’s doing again in the latter part of Chapter seven.

Here’s the question that sets it up in Romans, chapter seven, in the earlier verses five and six. He has told us ( we studied this last week) for while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive so that we serve in the new way of the spirit and not in the old way of the written code. Suppose anticipating that we’re going to ask a question, “if the law causes sin to be aroused in us does it causes us to sin more? Does that mean that the law is bad? Does that mean that God’s law is sin?” He’s anticipating that we might be thinking that. Maybe another way of phrasing the question he’s asking us would be, “Well, what good is the law? What good is it. Is it any good at all?” And so he’s wrestling with God’s law. But he’s also wrestling with the inner turmoil inside himself.

It kind of reminds me of poor Homer Simpson. You know, he’s got those situations that come up where he can’t decide what to do. Should he listen to the better angels in his life or should he listen to the devil? If you’re in my age group, you probably remember a fella named Flip Wilson who used to say, “The devil made me do it.” Well, this chapter is not so much about the devil making you do it as it is the old nature. The old sin nature that used to be under the law is still present in our lives. But we have a new nature.

I’m back to talking about the law and how we wrestle with it and how we try to figure that out. Now, who’s winning the wrestling match today inside of you? Do you know what I’m talking about, this wrestling match? Maybe there’s something going on in your life where you’re just like, “I know that’s not the right thing to do, but I really want to do it.” There’s a wrestling match inside of us. Maybe this short cut is kind of a gray area, you know. “I can’t do it” sort of feels like “I probably shouldn’t tell my spouse that I’m getting ready to do it. But, you know, everybody does it. ” It’s kind of a gray area, and so you’re wrestling with how to live and how to think about certain things. Maybe you’re watching something and you say, “I’m not gonna watch this when the kids are in the room and my wife’s in the room because it would make them uncomfortable, but I’m an adult. I can do that. I can watch this.” You have kind of a wrestling match inside of you. Do you know what I’m talking about? This wrestling match that Christians have where we know that we’re giving in to the old nature but we’re fighting it. Sometimes we feel like we overcome it, and sometimes we don’t and we feel shame as a result. We’re kind of surprised by it because we thought, when we got saved, we wouldn’t be doing this anymore. We wouldn’t be wrestling against sin anymore and we are surprised by it.

I would remind you that Roman’s chapter 6, 7 and eight are not about your salvation. They are about your sanctification. This is what God is doing in us now that we’re saved. Were still in a wrestling match, but he wants to give us victory. You don’t have to stay in the wrestling match. You don’t have to do that. We’re sinners saved by grace. And since we’re saved by grace were kept by grace and were changed by grace, not by our own effort.

Again, what good is the law? Well, in Romans, Chapter 7: 7 – 25, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome that the purpose of the law for the Christian was never to deliver them from sin, but it was actually to expose their sin and drive them, drive them back to total dependence on Christ. What’s what Good’s the law for us? It drives us to total dependence on crisis. It exposes our sin and shows us we can’t live the Christian life. No, we couldn’t get saved by our own effort. And we can’t live the life by our own effort. We need Christ . We need total dependence on Christ.

As we look at the text today, I think the text gives us three reasons that God’s law is good because it drives us to total dependence on Christ. Now we have a larger portion of Scripture today, so we’re going to take it in three portions. Let’s take versus seven through 12 and then we’ll comment on it. Romans 7:7-12 (ESV) “ 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” This is God’s word.

We’re just going to pause right there and answer this first part of the question. This is his first reason for why the law drives us to total dependence in Christ (1) Because it shows our sin to us. It shows our sin to us. We come to Christ, and I’ve often commented that when you get saved, God reveals a few things really quickly to you. And I’m kind of glad that he doesn’t tell you everything that’s wrong with you right out of the gate. Because it would just make you so miserable. Usually he starts pointing out the way you’re speaking so your speech is affected when you come to Christ. “I probably shouldn’t talk like that anymore.” You clean up your language by the power of the Holy Spirit. He might show some of your addictions that are out of line. There’s some outward things, some behaviors, your anger, the way you have some of these things he starts revealing to you. And it’s not just the law.

The law is this thing that tells you what’s right and wrong, but it’s the spirit within you. I’ve told people it’s kind of like peeling an onion. When you first peel an onion, you think, “Okay, I got that skin off.” Well, there’s another layer and then there’s another layer and every layer you peel off, it makes you cry. It’s kind of like that. Every time you think you’ve gotten to the core of it, “okay, I’m finally becoming more like Jesus.” Then the next day you get up and you do something. “Man, I didn’t know that was still in me.”

Here’s what the law does. The law holds up this standard that we can’t reach. So what good is it if we can’t reach it? Should we work harder? No, that’s not grace; that’s working under law and that will kill you. That’ll make a hypocrite of you. And that’s why they say they’re hypocrites in the church. Because we claim to be good when we know only Christ is good. And so we need to stop claiming to be better than others “gooder” than others. And we need to start talking about how good Christ is and how he saved us. Listen, here’s the thing. He’s the bread of life. The only difference between me and Joe Schmo out on the street is, I know where the bread line is. That’s it. I know where the bread is. “Hey, come on, I know you’re hungry. Come get in line with me. Let’s go eat some bread. Jesus is the bread. I’m no better than you. We are both hungry. I know where Jesus is.” Here’s what the law does. It shows us.

Look at verse seven; there’s that question, what then shall we say, has been going on since chapter five? Paul anticipates our question. We are pushed back to what he said earlier. And he’s been beating on the law so hard that finally, he said, what does that mean? Look, that the law is sin like God’s law, like the whole Old Testament, We ought to rip it out; not read it. And he gives his standard short answer first. “By no means!” Certainly not. No way, man, that’s a short answer.

Then he gives his longer answer, and his longer answer begins right there in verse seven. “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” In other words, it shows me my sin. It does a couple things; it defines sin so that you know that sin, and then it shows that I have it in me. I’m saved by grace, but I’ve still got flesh. When the Bible says flesh, it means the sin nature unless the context tells us otherwise. If it says flesh, especially in this context, it is the old sin nature. The old sin nature, before you got saved, which is still sticking around. And if you give it life, you give the old nature life, when you try to live under the law by your own strength, it’s going to start making more and more sense. But, what good is the law?

First of all, the law shows you about defining sin. Second, it’s like a mirror that says, you’ve got some in you. When you see that instead of going, “I need to try harder. I need to try harder. I need to work harder.” No, no, no, you can’t. You need to run to Jesus more every time. Every time we encounter the law and we see it instead of trying to keep it, through our own strength, we need to run to Jesus into knowing better and to lean into him more. I know it’s counterintuitive, but the new nature does understand this. As I’m preaching the new nature and those of you that are believers are going, “Amen. The new nature knows it’s all about Jesus. It’s all about his spirit. The new nature knows I can’t do it. The old nature can’t do it.” So what shall we say? We wouldn’t have known about sin if the law hadn’t told us .

And then Paul says, “for I would not have known what it is to covet.” He picks a particular commandment. In fact, this is number ten from God’s top ten, right? And we often think of that one like God, just threw that one in at the last minute. He went through the big ones, right? Thou shalt not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make any graven images. Remember the Sabbath. Honor your father and mother. These are so important. And then here’s this commandment. Thou shalt not covet. Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s donkey. I think I’m good on that one. Let’s put it into modern times; don’t covet your neighbor’s Lexus, don’t covet your neighbor’s Ford F 1 50 that’s all chromed out. Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s iPhone. Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s home.

I hear people say, “I’m a good person. I haven’t killed anyone.” Like that’s the standard for good. I haven’t killed anyone, so I’m a good person. They picked an external one. But then coveting, even the Jew who would say, and I’ve kept all the commandments, has to recognize that this one switches us from the external life to the internal life because coveting happens on the inside, right? It happens on the inside and no one but you and God knows that you really want what another person has. So that coveting thing, man, Paul picked out a good one there. He was kind of like, you know, when I was growing up and I did the bar mitzvah, you know, because Paul was a good Jew. He thought he was good and then he got to commandment number ten. When he got to commandment number 10, he realized that it starts on the inside. He started thinking more about the other nine and maybe those are on the inside before they turn outside .

Jesus makes it clear in the sermon on the mount. He says, in the sermon on the mount in Matthew, chapter 5:21, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a]and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Raka is calling someone, “empty head.” It’s demeaning their identity. Jesus says If you’ve done that, you’ve committed murder in your heart and then he says, Matthew 5:27, 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So we’ve broken all ten commandments because it all starts out with an attitude. This is the law; Jesus just elevated it higher.

What are we going to do? It shows us our sin, and he talks about it. “ If you hadn’t told me about coveting, I wouldn’t have even known that coveting my neighbor’s donkey was bad. I would have felt like it seems all right. I’m admiring my neighbor’s donkey. But now I realize that it makes me want it more.”

Verse eight says, 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” By the way, I was counting the word, law, and it’s in there fourteen times in these verses. The word, “commandment,” is in there four or five times, which is essentially just being about a specific law. He says that if it hadn’t been for the law, if it hadn’t been for that particular commandment, I wouldn’t have been as covetousness as I am. I wouldn’t be so covetous; it made it worse. That’s weird. That’s the effect of the law.

We talked about that a little bit last week instead of empowering us. Remember what we said. We talked about the speed limit driving down the interstate; the speed limit is 70. If you go 75, someone will pull you over and condemn you with a speeding ticket. So the law condemns; the law tells you what the correct way of driving at a speed is. But it doesn’t reach into your radio and turn it on and go. “You’re a good boy today because you’re staying at 69. Way to go, driver; you stayed under the speed limit.” It doesn’t encourage. The law does not encourage and it doesn’t reach in and grab your gas pedal either. The law has no power to empower or encourage. It only condemns. It only tells you what’s right and wrong. We talked about this last week.

This other effect is weird because of the old sin nature in us. And that is that the old sin nature, when it sees a law, it automatically wants to break it. That’s the three year old inside of you. The minute the law says, “Do not touch,” the three year old inside of you, the old sin nature says, “ Oh, I have to touch it now. I have to touch it.” We go all the way back to Adam. We have this saying, “ Oh, it was forbidden fruit. It was forbidden fruit, and I had to have it.” Why is that? It just made it more intriguing. Why can’t I have it? That doesn’t seem fair, God. It seems like I won’t be able to have it. And so there’s something about the law. Paul is talking about the law here. It doesn’t encourage it doesn’t empower. In fact, sin uses it, but that doesn’t make the law bad. It just means sin is worse than we thought, because it takes God’s law and uses it against us. It seizes it. It takes control of it and makes us break it.

Verse nine says this, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” It’s talking about this transition in his life. When he started realizing he can’t keep the law and he realized he was dead. The very commitment that promised life first, proves to be death to me. You know what the commandments say. you go back to the Old Testament. They all promise, like the first one, with the promise that if you honor your father and your mother, you should live long in the land.

Paul quotes in Ephesians, chapter six. And he says it’s the first commandment with a promise. But the problem is, we can’t do it. It promises life. But we can’t do it apart from Christ. Only Christ can empower us.

In verse 11, it repeats this thing that sin does; it seizes an opportunity. There it is again, seizing. It’s a military term for finding a break in the armor or finding a break in the defensive posture of the enemy. Sin sees a way to use the law to break through to us and to turn us more towards sin. It shows our sin to us. Here’s Paul’s conclusion to the question, “Is the law sin? What’s the conclusion?

Verse twelve says, the law is good. The law’s righteous and so are his commandments. They’re good. But the sin nature in us causes sin to use the law in such a way that that we break it. So it’s good, but we can’t keep it. Paul, says this in Galatians 3:19 (NLT) “ Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins…” So one of the purposes of the law is to show you that even after you were saved, you are still in a wrestling match against sin. It’s a wrestling match. You can’t win. Only Christ in you can win it and so we need to turn to Christ now.

Not very long ago, people didn’t find out about cancer until it was too late, then the MRI was invented. Now doctors can see inside the human body, and they can detect a tumor before the symptoms even are present. If the MRI reveals cancer to someone, should we turn on the MRI and say you are evil? “MRI, You are no good because you have revealed cancer inside of me.” No. The person who sees that the MRI has revealed it, but while there’s still a chance that it could be healed, we should be thankful for the MRI. It’s a diagnostic tool. It’s neutral. It can’t heal cancer. MRI’s don’t heal cancer, but it can help you see inside like a mirror. So you know, in essence, what Paul is saying, “I didn’t know I was dying of a terminal disease until the law came along and showed me I was dying.” And the law is God’s diagnostic tool. It’s God’s MRI. It exposes the sin and it gives us a prognosis that this is a deadly terminal disease unless treated. It is treated if you know Jesus. He takes your death. He relieves us of this cancer called sin. He’s the answer, not the law. The law is only an MRI. It only shows you that you’ve got a sin problem. And it’s not the way that you’re going to be helped. Jesus is the one we need to, to run to.

Are you struggling today with a sin MRI that the law has revealed to you? Are you struggling with an addiction? Are you struggling with an anger problem? Are you struggling with some unforgiveness towards someone? I could go on down the list. Are you struggling in any area with sin so that you’re in kind of a wrestling match? Don’t look to the law because the law just produces more death. It produces hypocrites. It makes hypocrites of us all. Run to Jesus, know him better, talk to him in prayer, encounter him by being together in fellowship like we are this morning, sitting arm in arm with each other like this and focusing on God’s word and seeing Jesus. I need more of You and less of me. The law is not sin. The law’s good. The law is holy. It’s like an MRI; it points to Jesus. Will you let it point you to Jesus?

Now here comes number two, but we need to read some verses before we go with our second reason that the law drives us to total dependence on Jesus. Let’s read thirteen through twenty. Here comes the difficult reading. I will try to help you as we go, but it gets you a little bit dizzy. Romans 7:13-20 (ESV) “13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

The “do do do do do do do” sounds like a song from the fifties. You just need a “do wap”chorus in the background. It’s a difficult reading. Did I get it right? I get tongue tied trying to read it. And poor Paul. It seems to be talking about a personal experience here. He moved from chapter seven, verse seven through twelve, where he gives you kind of like the diagnosis, the explanation. And then he moves into the experience. Here’s what it feels like. Have you ever felt like Paul’s feeling like here? I know what’s right because I’m saved . I know the law lives within me now through the Holy Spirit. I know, right? Wrong. And the very thing I want to do I end up not doing. Instead I do the thing I hate. Have you ever been in that wrestling match? “Lord, I did it again.” Have you ever said to the Lord something like this, “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I can’t seem to quit doing that. I hate myself. I hate that part of me.” Have you ever felt like that? I have. “You’re the preacher, you’re not supposed to.” I’m just like you. God called me to be this and to do this. But if I don’t have Jesus, I have nothing. The only good thing about me is Jesus. If you see anything good in me, it’s Him. Less of me. More of him. Come on, Jesus. There is stuff that breaks our hearts.

So, we’re looking at this passage. Let me give you a number two reason; I forgot to do that. Here it comes. (2) Because it reveals our inability to keep it. Coming out of verses thirteen through twenty, we’re looking for the second reason that the law is good because it drives us to total dependence on Christ. It does not drive us to come under it again because it can’t save us. It can’t help us. It can only condemn us. In fact,that sin nature uses it against us, and so it reveals our inability. So the law itself shows us we can’t keep it.

Let’s just walk through it like we did again. Verse thirteen says, “Did that which is good then.” Okay, this is his follow up question. Okay, so you told me the law is good not sin. Well, are you telling something good brings death? Okay, so it’s good. It’s not sin that is good, but it brings death and death is not good. That’s not good, Paul is saying.

He says, “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me?” And then he says, “by no means!” There’s his favorite answer. He says that actually, it was sin; it wasn’t the law. It was sin producing death through what is good. So this makes sin all the worst. You just think about how bad sin is but it’s even worse that it takes God’s law and uses it to beat us to death. It’s producing death. . It makes it even that more despicable, producing death. It uses the law in order that sin might be shown to be sin, which is what is summarized from earlier. We’ve already seen that the law shows sin to be what it is.

Then it says, “through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” What’s that? It shows that if we keep trying to be under the law; we keep trying to live according to our own strength. Sin keeps getting worse beyond measure where even the people around us start noticing. It compounds it. But this, too, is grace because it shows us our inability. “Gary, where are you getting this inability thing; where is that?” Well, let’s keep going down into here, for we know that the law is spiritual. That means it’s high above the sin nature. It’s perfect. It’s of God and from God.

“But I am of the flesh,” Paul says. “I’ve got this old nature, this old sin nature and that old sin nature sold to sin. Now I’ve got a new nature, but my old nature is enslaved to sin. Sin has lost authority over me, but it’s still lurking around because I’m still in this world.” And so he’s describing this in verse fourteen. He says, “I don’t even understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want.” So he has this desire. He wants to do what God’s spiritual law says. He wants to do it. He didn’t used to have that when he was lost, but now that he’s a Christian, he does want to do it. He’s got a new desire, but he can’t do it now. If I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. So the very fact that I want to do it and can’t do it actually proves that the law is good. So now it’s no longer I, but that old nature that will sin that dwells within me.

Verse eighteen says this, “ For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Here comes the explanation right here in the latter part of verse eighteen, “for I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” This is the hardship of being a believer. This is the warfare.

We were on the men’s retreat recently and our first speaker on Friday night said to us, “Worship is war.” It’s true because we’re constantly pulling our affections off of our idols and we are fighting the old sin nature to put them on God, to put them on Jesus.

When you come in on a Sunday morning like this, you’re bringing with you all your hurts, your habits and your hang ups, You are bringing in all these things that are hurting you, that are pulling you down. You come in just looking for a lifeline and it’s not me, it’s not the band, and it’s not someone here at the church. It’s not us. It’s all Jesus. We’re all here. We get together like this every week to remind each other it’s Jesus; it’s him. It’s Christ; it’s Jesus. We can’t do it without him.

The law is good; it’s not sinful. It’s good. It shows us that we need a savior. It shows us, as believers, that we need to stop looking down on other people because we’re no better than they are. And we need to stop shooting our wounded; when another Christian stumbles and falls and we ignore them. Instead, we need to run to them and say, “Let me help you up because it might be me next week.” We have a desire that’s new from Jesus. “Oh, I want to serve him. I want to please him, but I’m lazy. I’m scared. I love my comfort.” You fill in the blank. We don’t want to put sin first, but we don’t want to put him first. “I want to put him first, and then I found out how much it costs. I have the desire, but I lack the ability. Paul is hurting here, and so am I. So am I if I’m left here, with a desire for something I can’t do.” I’m glad Paul keeps going.

As we finish chapter seven, let me just apologize to you this morning. We’re going to stop at the end of seven. And if you don’t come back next week, you’re gonna feel pretty horrible. Sorry. That’s what Paul did. He gave you a little bit of hope at the end, cause that’s what Paul does. And then he leaves it there and it’s building up to the climax. All the good stuff is in Chapter eight. We’re not going there today, though, So you have to come back next week.

“I have the desire to do what is right, but I don’t have the ability to carry it out, for I do not do the good I want. But the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing now. If I do not now, if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it.” In other words, my new nature is not the one doing it. It’s my old sin nature doing it. It’s still dwells within me. This is a terrible place. Jesus warned his disciples when he asked him to pray with him the night before he was betrayed. He called his three favorite disciples; the ones he was closest to, Peter, James and John. He brought them all the way into the garden of Gethsemane. He said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They just kept going to sleep. They couldn’t even pray. He was praying so hard for God to move; then, we would see them and say, “Can’t you stay awake with me for just a little?” They are rubbing your eyes.

We’re just like Peter, James and John. The spirit is willing. We wanna hang with Jesus. We want to follow him. We really do because we have a new nature. When you get saved, you get a new nature. You’re born again. You get a new life, a new desire. But then that flesh is still lurking. The flesh is weak. The spirit is willing. What do we do? This is what he’s challenging us with.

You know, I’ve heard that the breaking of the addiction to cigarettes is one of the most difficult. Maybe some of you here could say, “amen.” I’ve not been a cigarette smoker, so I can’t vouch for it. My father was a two pack a day Winston smoker, and I still remember him having the Winstons in this pocket right here. I’ve been told it’s difficult because it has both a mental, emotional and physiological aspect. First, there’s the craving of the habit, just the way it feels in the hand and the time of day you do it. And second, there’s this physical dependency; it is actually a chemical dependency to nicotine. It actually causes the brain to release dopamine, which is the feel good chemical in the brain. Yet we all know that smoking can kill. It’s written on the side of the package. How many other things do we buy that says on the side, “This will kill you?” Give me some more; I will actually spend my extra money on this just because I must have it, you know? So we know the law is written on the side of it. If you do this, it will kill you, and we still do it. And that’s how the law is, if you will. That’s how the sin nature is, the old nature it lingers. And so even the person who has quit smoking 20 years ago, if they see somebody standing outside in a circle holding it, they think that it sure looks enjoyable. That still looks attractive. I’m not gonna act on it because I have a new nature now. I have a new desire, and I know the cost of that. I’ve gone back to the doctor and he’s told me that every year I’ve stayed clean, my lungs have started to recover, and that’s a good thing. But boy, I sure have picked up a lot of weight since then. You start telling yourself lies and different things. It’s like that craving just keeps on being there, and that’s kind of like sin. It’s kind of like that, even after you break it. The old nature still has cravings for shortcuts. It wants its dopamine feel good rather than following Jesus as we should. The longer we follow Jesus, the more aware we are that sin still lurks, craving still make demands. The old nature still wants to grab the steering wheel and reach across and swerve off the side of the road.

What we need to do in this wrestling match is we need to “tag out.” Does anybody watch wrestling? We to need tag out. I need to tag out and let Jesus come in off the top turnbuckle. Yeah, I’m sorry. I overworked that one. . I need to tag out. Give Jesus your fight. Stop fighting. Give Jesus your fight. Name it right now in your mind. What is that you’re still fighting and wrestling against and you’re trying to do it in your own power? You’re trying to keep the law, even though as a saved person you are no longer under the law, you’re under grace. If you’re under grace, you walk by the spirit. You walk by faith. We don’t walk under the power of the law. The law has no power to save. Now let’s finish this up.

Verse twenty-one to the end of chapter seven. We will see, as we read this passage, that Paul comes to a crisis. He comes to a point of wretchedness, of desperation. Let’s listen, Romans 7:21-25 (ESV) “21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Paul has described what it feels like and and how wretched it feels to come to the conclusion. I cannot make myself holy, but I’m thankful I have Jesus because he’s doing it in me. I can’t make claims to be better because I’m not. I’ve come to the conclusion that I know what’s in me. I know that only Jesus can do it. Here’s what it does here in this last passage, it exposes our ongoing struggle; It drives us to Jesus. We’ve said the law is good because it shows us our sin. It shows the specifics of our sin. It shows that we still have sin. Even though we’re saved and we’re forgiven, we’re going to have sin. We are counted righteous, even though we’re not, because of Jesus. He’s still making us holy, which is sanctification. He’s making us holy. He’s making us like Jesus. So he shows our sin. And it also shows that we have no ability. We have desire, but no ability. He’s our ability. Sorry, I told you, I warned you about chapter seven. You’re gonna be in this wrestling match until Jesus comes.

I know some people read this and they think that this describes Paul before he was saved because he has a desire to do right. But he wouldn’t have a desire to do right before he got saved. I mean, right by God’s law here. He actually even says he delights in it. So he’s a saved man, but he’s yet to learn to run to Jesus with everything. I believe Paul does get to a place because we’re going to get to Chapter eight. Have I told you we’re going to get to chapter eight? But not today. We are if the Lord delays his coming. If he doesn’t delay, we will experience chapter eight in heaven, so it’s all good either way. But you have to come back next week. We’ll be in chapter eight, where he put all the good stuff. He just gave us a little bit of good stuff in verse twenty-five of chapter seven. Just a little bit and then pulled it back at verse twenty-five.. And so it exposes our ongoing struggle.

Now we have the word, law, again in verse twenty-one, but it’s not the law. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand, this is not God’s law. This is a principle that Paul has observed. This is like gravity. I’ve learned that there’s a natural law called gravity, that if you drop an apple like this, it goes to the ground no matter the skill. l You can say, “I do not believe in God’s law,” and if you step off this stage, it doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, it will work itself out on you. “I don’t believe in gravity;: gravity will still get you. So, Paul is saying here that this is not the Torah; this is not the mosaic law. This is not capital “L” law. I find it to be a principal that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. So Paul has observed something; now that he is a believer, he has this desire to do right over evil. Be aware that for I delight in the Law of God; the capital “L”, Law of God. That is the Ten Commandments. I delight in the Law of God in my inner being . What’s that? My new nature. A new nature. What’s my new nature? That I was born again of the spirit.

What did God tell Adam and Eve? “The day that you eat that fruit, you shall surely die.” Well, they didn’t die for like nine hundred years after that. What did God mean? He meant spiritual death. They would still have a body that would still have a soul. But they died spiritually at that moment.

When you become a Christian, you’re born again spiritually. So Jesus told Nicodemus, “you must be born of the spirit.” So you’re spiritually alive in your soul you have in your inner being. Now you’re alive and you delight in that new spirit within you loves God’s law and wants to delight in it. Loves it. But then I see in my members… This is not your fellow church members that Paul’s referring to. This is your hands, your feet, your ears… the members of your body, his body for his use. I see my body, my hands, my feet. I see them. I see another law. This is not capital “L” law, This is now principal or power. Here I see another power waging war. Another principle, waging war against the principle of my mind. Again, this is lower case “l” law. I see another power waging war against the power of my mind and making me captive to the power of sin that dwells in my members. I think it’s important for me to explain to you these because he’s got law in there fourteen times. But every time it’s not capital “L” law. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. It’s a principle. He’s learned this. I see it. There’s a war being waged for the members of my body to take my eyes to see something they shouldn’t be looking at, to make my mouth talk about and say gossip when it shouldn’t be speaking gossip and it should be speaking blessing. To make my ears listen to something my ears shouldn’t listen to. To make my hands take hold of that which my hands should not take hold of. There’s a war waging for control of my body. That’s what he’s talking about.

Then he cries out, “Wretched man, that I am.” Like a boxer in the twelfth round whose eyes are bloody and beaten. He can’t even open his eyes, and he trudges to the middle of the ring only to have the opponent’s arm lifted in victory and he has to be publicly humiliated. He fought for twelve rounds, but he lost. He is wretched, despairing, broken and beaten. Paul cries out, “I can’t do this! Who will rescue me? Who will deliver me? Who will pull me out?” Paul finally gets it. The law drives us to Jesus. It drives us to total dependence. I can’t preach without him. I can’t sing without him. I can’t worship without him. I can’t Father. I can’t be a mother. I can’t be a good spouse. I can’t be a good worker at my workplace. I can’t do anything, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Paul says in the new living version of Romans 7: 25. He says God’s law has power over my mind, but sin still has power over my simple old self.

Jesus doesn’t call us to law keeping. He calls us to self denial and following him. He says in Luke 9:23 (ESV) “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” We need to say no to the old nature. In fact, take up the implement of execution and kill that old nature; count it dead in Christ and follow Jesus in everything. Our struggle is only diminished as we grow in our dependence on God’s grace and Jesus.

Here’s what Charles Swindoll says about this passage, “We are not saved by grace and then sanctified by our own labors. The work of grace was not half done. The point of Paul’s miserable self-portrait was to demonstrate that humanity can no more purify itself of sin after salvation than before. Only God can purify a soul.” We’re saved by grace, and we’re also sanctified by grace. So don’t let your head swell up because then you’re a hypocrite. Instead, be humble; tell the lost, “Look, I’m no better than you. I just know where the bread is coming from. Follow me as I follow him and he’ll give you life.” We say, we are the “come as you are church,” but don’t leave that way. Stay and be changed by the love of Jesus. It’s not about being under the law. Paul’s description of this inner wrestling teaches us that self improvement in the energy of the flesh is impossible. It’s a vain pursuit. Sure, the law is good, but it’s only God good. Inasmuch that it shows the sin, it shows the inability in us, and it shows the struggle and explains why we’re struggling . It’s only good because it drives us to Jesus. That’s what’s good about the law, because it points to Christ.

Have you given him your whole life? Have you given him that part that you’ve been hanging on to? Some are here today and you’ve never given your life to Jesus. You’re struggling without the new nature. You’re struggling, just enslaved to your sin, enslaved to the old pattern. But even as a believer, if you don’t give him everything, if you hold part of it back, there’s a wretchedness to that life. In fact, I would say that the believer who still tries to live according to the old nature might be the most miserable person on planet Earth because they know a better thing. Would you turn your whole life over to Jesus? You can do it. You can start right now, you can name that thing. So I’m giving that to you, Lord. I’m going to depend on you for everything.

Let’s pray, Lord Jesus. Thank you. Thank you that the law’s good. It’s spiritual and holy. We love it in our hearts, in our inner nature, our new nature. But Lord, we can’t keep it. But you can, Lord, you come on. You come on right now, Lord, I pray you would save people in this room that are far from you. Is that you, my friend? Would you right now just say, “I’m a sinner. I’m far from God, but I want to be near. I want to be a child of God. I surrender my life. I believe that Jesus died on the cross, that he was raised from the grave and that he lives today. Come and live in me.” You can invite him right now. “Come and live in me. Lord, I want you to save me and I want to be a child of God. I want you to be my lord and savior. If you’re praying that prayer believing in your heart the Bible says you’ll be saved.” Others are here this morning and you’re like Paul; you’re in a wrestling match against something. I don’t know what it is. It might be an addiction. It might be the drugs, alcohol, pornography or something else. It might be cigarettes. I don’t know what it is. Something that you know that you don’t want to do. But you keep doing it. It might be uncontrolled anger. And you’ve been destroying people all around you, even though you’re saved. But you still struggle with the sin pattern. It it could be gossip. It could be coveting it. I don’t know what it is, but the Lord do and you do, and you’ve been trying to fix it, and it’s making you miserable. Just give it the Jesus. Leave it at the cross, let him nail it to the cross and leave it there. And every time it comes up, nail it one more time. Now, Lord, we just give it to you. . You alone are able in Jesus name. Amen.