Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of July 5, 2020

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What a Miserable Person I Am -- Romans 7

Tommy Lasorda, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager, once described his battle with bad habits this way, “I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, stared at it and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” The answer was me. So, I stopped smoking. Then I took a vodka martini and said to it, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” Again the answer was me.  So, I quit drinking. Then I went on a diet. I looked at a big plate of linguine with clam sauce and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” And a little clam looked up at me and answered, “I am.” I can’t beat linguine.”

Is there a battle in your life that you know you just can’t win?  Paul describes one such battle in the text from Romans chapter 7. 

This summer we have been walking through the book of Romans and today we catch a glimpse at the personal struggle of sin.  Paul describes that internal monologue we have all had in regards to giving in to the temptations of sin. 

In Romans 7:15-19, Paul writes, “I don’t realize what I am doing. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate.  I don’t do what I want to do, but I agree that God’s standards are good. So I am no longer the one who is doing the things I hate, but sin that live in me is doing them.  I know that nothing good lives in me; that is, nothing good lives in my corrupt nature.  Although I have the desire to do what is right, I don’t do it.  I don’t do the good I want to do.  Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do.” 

It is said that opportunity knocks only once in life, but temptation bangs on the door for years.  Paul describes that battle that takes place in the body, soul and mind of every single person on earth as we lament upon the struggle of sin. 

Earlier in the letter Paul reminded us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Following that logic, we all struggle with doing what God requires.  In fact, Paul turns up the heat and reveals what we all know already.  Even when we know what we should do, we don’t do it. 

What temptation is banging on the door of your heart?  I know there is at least one.  What is that sin that you seem to come back to over and over again?  You know it’s wrong, you know God would not approve, let alone family or friends.  What are those temptations you give in to time and time again?

English poet Frederick Locker-Lampson once wrote, “The world is as ugly as sin, and almost as delightful.”  Sin is alluring and powerful and a force given into by each and every one of us each and every day.  Paul continues in verse 21, “So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good.  I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being.  However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body.  It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body.  What a miserable person I am!”  (Romans 7:21-24)
When the bright light of the law shines in the dark corners of our lives we become keenly aware of our sin filled lives.  Try to hide it, try to deny it, we are all miserable people, wrapped up in the wretchedness of sin, giving in to temptation and wallowing in our inadequacies.  Perhaps you remember saying these words as part of the liturgy of the church, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto you…” 

We are engaged in a battle that we are incapable of winning.  You are a poor miserable sinner, stuck in the same self-centered spiral that brings guilt, pain, separation, and self-loathing.  What a bunch of miserable people we are!  You may try to find a way out on your own.  You may think you can work off the guilt, sweep away the sadness or try and forget the failures, but I have news for you.  You can’t do this on your own!  You may even believe that this battle with sin is within you and something for you to conquer, but it's not.

The life of a Christian is not a call to do more. Please hear that statement again, The life of a Christian is not a call to do more.  It’s not a self help program or a process of personal redemption.  The Christian life is coming face to face with the one who has done it all.  For there is another battle that has taken place where the outcome is vastly different, the champion has already been crowned and the victor stands in glory. 

Perhaps the words from the second verse of Martin Luther’s famous hymn "A Mighty Fortress" will help you remember.
“With might of ours cannot be done,
            Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the valiant one,
            Whom God himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this?
            Jesus Christ it is!
Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God
            He holds the field forever.”   (LSB 656)

While Paul laments over the struggle of sin that we all face, he is confident in hope.  This is not the end.  Like Paul, we find victory over sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

If sin has the best of you, if you feel like there is no hope for a miserable person such as you, listen to the good news.  Who you really are has nothing to do with you—how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on.  Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; His strength, not yours; His performance, not yours; His victory, not yours.  Your identity is steadfastly established in His substitution, not your sin.

Hear these words, on account of Christ, your sin is forgiven!  That is grace!  That is life!  In Christ alone we have our identity. There are 2 questions for thought this week...

#1 – What are some of those things that you have done in your life, that for the life of you, you just cannot understand why you did them?  Say them aloud.
#2 – How does coming to the realization of verse 18 and what it means give you hope?  Here is the verse, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out.”

The late Christian author Brennan Manning once wrote, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.  In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means…My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

The church is not in the business of doing all things in the proper way such as believing, behaving, worshiping, etc. in order to get right with God.  The church instead is in the Gospel-proclaiming business.  The church is not here to proclaim that God will think kindly of us only after we have lived up to certain creedal, liturgical, or ethical standards; it’s here to bring the good news Scripture proclaims, that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” 
The church is here, in short for no pious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace won in the person and work of Jesus Christ and given to us freely without any merit or worthiness in us.  With that understanding we can cry out with great hope and in boldness along with Paul, “Who will rescue me from my dying body?  I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me!”  (Romans 7:24b-25)

That is grace!  That is Gospel!  That is forgiveness and that is freedom, which is all yours, even as a miserable sinner, in Christ!

Let us pray…
Heavenly Father, we realize that we are such poor, miserable sinners.  We know that we cannot free ourselves.  We know that only You can give us what we need for Eternal Life.  Thank you for sending your one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our substitute and take all of your wrath upon himself.  It is only through Him that we will one day worship you around your throne, singing your praises forever and ever.  Amen.
-- Karl Fink


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