(This is a long one, so prepare yourself. If you’re interested in just the scriptures: Romans 7:7-25 -> Romans 8:1-17 -> Romans 11:28-36 -> Romans 12:1-2.)
I find that sometimes I choose to do things that are clearly against what I believe.
I willfully choose rebellion.
I don’t understand myself when I do this, but I do it anyway. Whether it’s “oh, one more time won’t hurt,” or “no one will find out,” or “I’ve been doing this for years, who’s going to blame me if I keep doing it,” or “but I really really really want to…” or any other inane justification, I so often convince myself it’s a good idea that I can do whatever it is that’s clearly not justified (else, I wouldn’t be grasping at straws like I am).
Usually this action is immediately followed with kicking myself, or remorse, or tears, or anger, or regret, or guilt, or frustration. Usually I realize immediately how silly it is to presume that I know everything, that I am the wise One who can lead my life in a correct and true path.
Sometimes, however, I spend a few days in blatant denial: yes, I know it was wrong, and I don’t care. Nope, don’t care. Not sorry. Not apologizing. Don’t expect an apology: I wanted to do it, so I did it. So there.
After a day or two of that…I slowly being to think that maybe, after all, I should be sorry. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea. Maybe, even though I don’t see anything detrimental, I don’t see “how far the ripples of [my] decisions go” either, and that one willful rebellion could have an effect about which I am ignorant.
Sometimes, I know what I did was incorrect, wrong–insert word here–and yet I struggle with feeling sorry for it. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just…I don’t know what it is: I have spent long enough justifying my actions to myself that when I try to come clean and admit I was wrong…I won’t let myself.
Thankfully, I’m not alone. I was flipping pages today to try to find words that would make me feel the guilt, make me feel the evilness of what I’ve accomplished all by myself, and I came upon the book of Romans.
I literally just read through this book a few months ago…didn’t remember any of this.
In Romans 7:7-25, Paul discusses the law and sin. His main point in 7-13 is that the creation of law also gave us awareness of sin (This is in several places besides 7-13). Without the law saying what is good, we would not know what, then, is bad. He goes on to say that because of our awareness, temptation is then presented in every way, shape, and form possible. It’s kind of like when someone tells you: Hey, don’t think about the word “Green” for 30 seconds. Your brain doesn’t say “Yellow! Orange! Blue! Blue! Red! Purple! etc” it says “Stop thinking about green, don’t think about green, don’t think about the green grass…etc” The same happens with sin, according to Paul here.
14-25 is the fairly recognizable, super confusing passage about doing what you don’t want to do, and not doing what you do want to do.
I FEEL LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME.
I mean, really. I do things I know are stupid, things I shouldn’t want to do, and if I’m thinking rationally, don’t really want to do…and I don’t do the things that are good, pleasing, perfect, humble, Christ-like: the things I should want to do, and if I’m thinking rationally, do want to do.
Why?? Because of the sin nature that is waging war against the members of my body.
My body belongs to God: He created it, He saved it, He owns it. My heart belongs to God, I consciously made the decision to give it back to Him. My nature is sinful: I am a human, a member of a fallen race, and I am tempted. Paul says it quite poignantly in verses 24-25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
The Lord rescues me from this body of death, this body full of sinful nature. He gives me new life in the mind, a life full of the Spirit, of Truth–it is this part of me that becomes a bondservant to God’s good and perfect law. It is this that fights against the sinful nature that is a slave to sin.
So basically…I have two “me’s:” a good one and a bad one. Great, I have an evil twin, and she’s me.
As if that passage wasn’t confusing enough, now I’m saying that I’m two selfs. Except I’m not schizophrenic…I promise. In all seriousness, that’s a pretty difficult thing to come to terms with: I am always at war with myself. I am always deciding which path to take, the one full of grace and light, or the one full of edgy and rebellious experiences.
Like I was saying earlier, I sometimes choose the rebellion. I sometimes choose the sin nature: that makes me a pretty poor servant of God, don’t you think?
Well…Romans 8:1-17 discusses that a little.
I am obligated, because of the life God has willingly given, and the life I’ve asked for when accepting it, I am obligated to live according to the word of God because He has made me live when my body was dead because of sin. When I do not live according to his word and his will, I am no longer in his presence…indeed I cannot be, as I am imperfect. But…1-4 gives me hope: there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, because Christ’s sacrifice was greater than the punishment by the law. I can stand, no longer condemned by my rebellious actions, because 1) Christ has paid my penalty, 2) He forgives me when I mess up again, and 3) I have accepted his sacrifice as covering me. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
That’s me, whether I’m acting like it or not. That’s me, I have no condemnation because of the gracious love and sacrifice of Christ. Even if I rebel, even if I respond to the wrong self. I tear up a little, finally, after reading and re-reading this…He loves me, He forgives me: His grace is limitless. I cannot comprehend it.
Neither could Paul when he wrote (and quoted from Isaiah and Job) this doxology in Romans 11:33-36:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
What does all this mean?
1) I am always at war with myself: I have to sides to choose from, Godly and Worldly.
2) I will sometimes choose Worldly, because that is my nature.
3) I am no longer mine, God has claimed me: I am now a bondservant of His instead of the world’s.
4) Because of this I have no condemnation, even when I mess up: Christ’s grace covers me.
5) I do not deserve it: I am nothing compared to the Creator of the Earth and the heavens.
So? What then?
“Therefore, I urge you,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> any longer to the pattern of this world,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”>—his good, pleasing<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”> and perfect will.”