[It is 11:55… barely any time left in Wednesday. I wasn’t sure I would write today. Still wasn’t sure as I hit publish on this post. It is long… very long compared to many of my posts. It is hard some days to put into written form what God reveals in a real life Wednesdays with Jillene moment… but, hesitant as I am, I hope these unedited and not proof-read words speak truth from God’s Word to those who need to hear them, no matter the day you read them.]
Let me tell you, as a momma, I know full well there is a whole lot that my “law” is powerless to do, so.very.much. In fact, there are days I wonder what it can accomplish.
I can look at my babies (and mostly grown children too) and have all the hopes and dreams for their lives, for their character, for their future, for their faith, for their walk with the Lord… anyway, I can look at all that and determine what is important, prioritize the things they should do, and identify the things they shouldn’t do. I can come up with the best list of rules, create extensive lists of “in this house we,” cultivate the “perfect” environment, safeguard with the strongest of boundaries…
But even with all that I cannot prevent my children from experiencing pain, remove the temptation to choose that which is sinful, or avoid them chasing things contrary to my will. There is no perfect formula that can stop all that from happening.
Now, that doesn’t mean I stop trying, not by any means, but in all too many circumstances I come face-to-face with the reality that I can determine, to the best of my abilities, what is true, right, important, and good for my children. But I cannot make them choose it. My momma “laws” are powerless to accomplish that…
There are times that I wonder, “Why do I even bother?” Having all these rules, standards, goals, dreams and hopes just seems to offer ample opportunity to be disappointed. Wouldn’t it be better if I was more reasonable with my expectations, you know, lowered the bar some? But then I see this: the struggle is much more than a battle for proper behavior, it is a matter of the heart.
Because really: don’t punch your brother isn’t unreasonable. But, my kids hitting isn’t just an action they do but choice that comes from an attitude in their heart. In the same way, as any of my kids faces will fully prove, asking them to put someone else first isn’t just an action but an attitude. Just watch what happens when I ask them to let someone else get on the bus before first, you’d think I just condemned them to a life of indentured servitude.
Sometimes I wonder if my mom-commands have the converse affect… just try telling a toddler. “Stay here,” or better yet, “Don’t put that in your mouth.” I’m sure you know just what happens 99% of the time when I dare to say those fateful phrases: they do the opposite. Does that mean I was wrong? No. There sure are times I am wrong, but, for the most part, this is a reality we all face as parents. And, in the tiniest of ways, it gives us a bit of an understanding of some pretty huge things Paul talks about in Romans 7 and 8.
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
What a predicament, for sure. “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” The law reveals sin to us. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…” not that the law was wrong but it revealed what was wrong. And the struggle ensues, “For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
And isn’t that the heart of the battle right there, for my children and much more so, for me?! From the beginning, God has given us His word, The Law lays out for us what is right… but we can’t do it. Try as we might, we can’t hold true to every word of God’s law. And the resulting sins we commit, even more the sinful matters of our hearts brings brokenness, pain, and death in our relationship with God.
Sounds pretty miserable.
And it would be… if that was where God’s truth stopped.
But the beautiful, amazing love of God meets us in just this place.
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
“For what the law was powerless to do…” “God did by sending his own Son…”
This is amazing grace. Where we could not, God made a way. He loved us so much that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He didn’t wait for us to be good enough, didn’t wait for us to try hard enough, didn’t demand that we first made enough progress towards holiness… the hope that we have is that where the law was powerless, God made a way by sending Jesus and through Christ we are set free from the law of sin and death!
The good news gets even better.
10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Through Christ we are adopted by the Spirit as God’s children. Not because we’ve tried hard enough, not because we’ve earned it… and that is a beautiful thing. Because if it was based on our merit or accomplishments then we could also lose that “Child of God” status. And we know we would, it’s all to clear that we can never live up to the law. But because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we have been redeemed, we are saved.
But what then about the struggles we face? Why is is so hard to live as the redeemed of the Lord?
Rereading Paul’s words, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” Do you notice the tense that he uses? It isn’t past tense. Paul isn’t saying that this was something he faced before encountering saving grace through Jesus. He says it in the present tense. A current struggle. It is the process of sanctification, where God works holiness in our lives, refining us and making us more like himself every day.
I was reminded of these simple truths again tonight, “God knows us. He knows we will fall; he knows when we will fail. There is hope. 1 John 1:9 gives us the hope.”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Spend some time right now to bring to God, who is ever faithful and true, the sins you need to confess tonight, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us rom all unrighteousness.” For what the law was powerless to do… God made a way through Christ. Rest in that, find peace in that right now and bring to God the sin you need to confess and allow God to work life in you!