Really quick, guys. Really quick. Or at least sort of quick.
I said something in the last post about a cycle of condemnation/rules/failure and referenced Romans 7. I want to expand on that a little.
The Lifehouse Youth Group talked about this during our study of Terry Virgo's Enjoying God's Grace. Some people talk about Romans 7:15-19 like it's the greatest puzzle in all of the Bible. Maybe you'll agree.
"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 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. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."
How's your brain? Does it hurt? I've heard all kinds of explanations for this passage and been confused by the wording enough to accept anything teachers have said. Most of the time, my teachers focused on how we relate to Paul, despairing over the sin we keep doing.
I don't think Paul wanted us to focus on our behavior and I don't think he wanted to discourage us with our depravity. Look at what verse 18 says, "For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." How many Christians know what that feels like? We accept Jesus and embrace forgiveness, but then we keep messing up. As soon as we mess up, we think to ourselves, "I've got to read my Bible more, or pray more, or be more accountable with other people in the church. Or maybe I should fast." I know I've thought those things.
That's why I think he uses the word "do" over and over again. When we mess up, we want to know what we can do to make it better. We know we want to do the right thing, but we don't have the ability to carry it out. We'll continue to fall short of perfection.
After talking about confession and accountability, John writes in his first letter, "I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." He goes on to say we demonstrate our love for him in what we do, so we don't have any reason to consciously enter into intentional wrong-doing. But it is not our behavior that saved us. We are not righteous. Only our advocate, Jesus, is righteous.
So don't try to counterbalance sin with good works. It's bound to fail. Confess, repent quickly, and ask God to put your sin to death. You're not strong enough to do it on your own.