2020 - Romans
The Law Can
Last time, as we studied Romans 7:1-6, we discovered four things law cannot do.
1) Law cannot make us right. We are made right by God, to be the right for his glory. But the law doesn’t do make us right… grace does!
2) Law has no authority over us. There was a triple funeral… In the watery grave of baptism, our old self and the law dies with Jesus. We don’t live under law… but with grace.
3) Law provides little, long-term motivation. Law can scare us, or guilt us, or at best, duty us… But grace moves us to be the glory of God!
4) Law does not produce desirable fruit. The law does not produce a glory-sharing life… grace does!
Paul’s point, in the top half of Romans 7, is living under the reign of legal systems hinder the true expression of our love for God. We are called to live under grace. Wow! What a remarkable concept! We live in the grace of God. We live in freedom. We live in forgiveness. We live in and for His glory!
“Well, if law systems cannot make us right. We are not under law. Then, no one can tell me what to do. I don't have to obey anything. I can do whatever I want. If I am not under law, nobody can say, ‘You should do this or shouldn't do that.’ I only do what I want to do! If you try to tell me what I need to do, then you are wrong, because I am not under your law. What I decide is as good, you are probably wrong!”
--Paul anticipates this response.
--Paul anticipates people thinking the law is a bad thing.
--Paul anticipates people taking advantage of their freedom by using it to satisfy their own selfish rebellion.
--Paul anticipates our response… “I have the right to believe whatever I want. I’m right because I’m right and you can’t tell me I’m not.”
--Paul anticipates this response in Romans 7:7&12…
Romans 7:7&12 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! So, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
"What? You just said… in the first 6 verses of this chapter, the law can’t make us right. You just said… that law has no authority over us. You just hammered the Law! Now you say the law is holy and righteous and good? I'm so confused."
Image, we were climbing along a ridge. There was a 1000 ft. drop on the left of our ridge. On the right side there is another 1000 ft. drop. There is only a narrow ridge to walk. There is danger on both sides. It is the same with law. There are dangers on either side of our ridge; on both sides of the law. One side of the ridge is the danger of using the law to prove we are right and others are wrong. They could become hateful legalists. On the other side of the ridge is the danger of using our freedom recklessly. We could conclude… it does not matter what we do. Your beliefs are right because you want them to be. We could conclude that the law is useless. We become reckless hedonists.
We could fall off either side of the ridge… Law makes right OR Law is worthless.
Last time, we saw what law cannot do. This morning, we see what law can do. Four things the law can do…
1) Law defines sin.
Romans 7:7What 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. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
I recently thought this thought… Sin can be defined as… not bringing glory to God. We can think of sin as the opposite of what brings glory to the Father. We examine our lives to see what is working to advance the kingdom and what is not. Missing the mark of glory is sin.
Here is Paul’s point… Law helps us to see what is missing the mark of glory. Throughout the New Testament, the writers have various sins lists. They frequently contrast a list of wrong behaviors in contrast to what brings glory to God. These help us to understand what misses the mark. Law helps us to sharpen our aim on the glory of God! “Say that sentence again, Tim.”
Number 1 Thing the law can do… defines sin; sharpens our aim at glory!
Number 2 thing the law does…
2) Law reveals desire.
Romans 7:8-11 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
There once was a story of a little girl who went to the basketball game with her dad. After a little while she could not sit still any longer. She wanted down from her dad's lap. "OK, but don't go across that line." the dad said, as he pointed to the out of bounds line on the edge of the basketball court. Sure enough, as she got down, she went over to the line and put her foot across the line and turned to look at her dad.
I can relate to the little girl. Whenever someone tells me the rules and lists do’s and long lists of don’ts and you can’t do this and you better not do that and stay at home and wear your masks and stay six feet away from everyone else and keep your groups to 5 and on and on… It makes me feel like the little girl… “I’ll show you. You can’t make me! Watch this.”
Law reveals within our hearts… rebellion… anger… What I’m going to call… attitude. “Yeah, I’ve got attitude!” Law often creates a desire in us to do the very thing we are told not to do. Laws reveal an attitude!
“This is a good thing?” When we feel like the little girl, we need to step back. When we are feeling angry rebellion… let me advocate… take a breath. We renew our intent to be the glory of God. We ask ourselves… what is it in this situation that will bear the image of his glory. Make sure law doesn’t push us to have attitude.
See, the law is helping us… it reveals sin, it reveals attitude.
3) Law reveals sin is ugly.
Romans 7:13 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.
On June 6, 1989 I lay flat on my back strapped to a gurney. I was wheeled into a cylinder of a machine, where I was told to lay perfectly still, while this machine took pictures of my brain. I had attempted to occupy the same space, at the same time with a rather large rock. So, after a day in the hospital, they did a computed tomography or Cat scan… on my head. They found nothing. Let me rephrase that. They found nothing wrong. There was no dame-bramage
But suppose they had found something... wrong. Suppose there had been internal damage or bleeding. My reaction would have been… concern, fear, maybe wonder, why me. But I would not have been angry at the cat scan machine. I would not have blamed the cat scan for my brain damage. I would have blamed the rock. Or, myself for being where I shouldn't have been. But it would be irrational to blame the machine for pointing out what was wrong. So, it is the same with the law.
The job of Law is to show how ugly sin is. The Greek word for “beyond measure” is hyperbole… throwing beyond! Like the Cat Scan the Law shows us how bad the damage of sin is. Sin is ugly. That is why sin is sin… it’s ugly.
Wallowing in sin damages the glory of God we should be showing. Sin is hyperbole bad because it hurts the glory of God!
“That’s a good thing.” The law reveals that sin is really ugly.
The law reveals sin, reveals attitude, reveals sin is hyperbole ugly.
4) Law reveals helplessness
Romans 7:14-24 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 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. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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. Wretched man that I am!
The law creates a struggle. Anyone who attempts to live their lives totally under law… never making a mistake, following all the rules and regulations, making lists, doing them all, never wrong, following every law to the letter… is going to drive themselves crazy. Obsession with law leads to being wretched. The law drives the legalist to insanity.
“This is good?” No, but what happens next is…
Romans 7:24-25 Who will deliver me from this body of death? (cries the wretched legalist) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
The law reveals our helplessness. The law reveals our wretchedness. The law reveals our insanity. Consequently, law pushes us to Jesus! “That’s good, right?” Attempting to live under law, on our own, doing it all… when we realize our inability to keep it, pushes us toward the only answer; the only answer to our wretchedness… Jesus Christ!
Sneak peak, next week…
Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
We will study, next time, in chapter eight, the deliverance of Jesus Christ. We will see how life in the Spirit, is Grace. We will see the joy and confidence that is found under grace! We will see Jesus did for us… what the law could not do. Jesus delivers us from the insanity of law!
“I can’t wait till next week.”
So, the law is holy and righteous and good… because…
1) Law reveals what pleases and displeases God… so we can live better; for his glory.
2) Law reveals attitude in us that hurts our sharing the glory of God.
3) Law reveals how hyperbole ugly sin… this keeps us glory-sharing.
4) Law reveals helplessness… which drives us to Jesus, who is our answer!
Los Alamos Church of Christ
October 19, 2020
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