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Our Dilemma

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Our Dilemma

Romans 7:7-25             October 21, 2001

 

Scripture Reading: Leviticus 19

Introduction:

Have you ever been between a rock and a hard place?

For those of you who may not be familiar with this folksy proverb, it means that there are times in life that you are in a "no win" situation.

Ed and Lorraine Miller were in one of those situation a little over a week ago when they were stopped at a construction site on the highway they were travelling on.

There was a line of traffic stopped ahead of them and they were the last ones in line.

But that is when it happened. A pickup truck came barreling up behind them and didn't stop at all.

Ed and Lorraine were sandwiched in between a rock and a hard place.

They were in a no win situation.

They couldn't move out of the way because they were stopped.

All they could do was take the impact that totaled their car.

I read about another no win situation in the paper this week.

It had to do with those very bright blue super high intensity headlights you see on some cars nowadays.

They are blindingly bright – and so thought the police officer who gave a $75 ticket to the man with the brand new car.

The problem was that the car came with those headlights as original equipment, and the car manufacturer as well as the federal government say that they are not illegal.

The man who got the ticket says it was not his fault that the car came with these headlights, and it was illegal for him to get a ticket.

But the local ordinance prohibits such lights and the officer was just upholding the law.

Another rock and a hard spot ---.

The court upheld the local ordinance but rescinded the ticket.

So the car owner got off but the problem remains.

Now you might guess that there is a spiritual application to all this, and you're right.

It is this --- that mankind and his efforts at religion also put between a rock and a hard spot.

We want to do right but find it utterly impossible to sustain doing what we want to do right.

We cannot seem to escape our sin nature that assumes precedence whether we want it to or not.

So how do we ever hope to overcome it?

Mankind seems to have no limit at inventing religions or self-help plans to get him out of the mess he is in, but none of them work.

The problem is either that people don't have the right religion, or that they are not following or cannot follow the religion they are in.

There is a lot of both going around.

There is no way they can help themselves.

This is the dilemma of mankind ever since the Garden of Eden.

Do you suppose that for a minute mankind would let God himself help them?

You see, ever since that first fall from holiness, God has had a plan that through the seed of the woman salvation would come.

That plan was the coming of Jesus Christ, the holy seed of God in union with the woman to be a righteous and holy sacrifice for the sin of man.

No other religious leader came in such a way or gave himself in such a way.

But the coming of Jesus put mankind in another dilemma.

It rendered all human religion useless before God – ineffective in securing righteousness.

You see, true religion is a relationship and not a resume.

It is who he is and not what we have done.

All this put even God's own people, the Jews - especially the Jews - into a bind.

They were given the very law of God and they came to think that would save them.

But Paul tells us in this morning's text in Romans 7:7-25 that no one could keep the law.

It even worked against them by exposing the sin they could not overcome, thereby even increasing their offense before God because they were now more aware of his requirements.

It would seem that God had placed all mankind in a box with only one escape route – grace, the subject or our messages this last several weeks.

So if grace is so much superior to law in dealing with human sin, then what possible use or purpose can we have for the OT law in this age of grace?

Or, if the law goes so far as to even accentuate sin, does the law become sin itself?

Since the effect of grace supercedes the law by giving us a better means of obtaining obedience, righteousness, and holiness leading to eternal life through our new Master, Jesus Christ, essentially becoming in his likeness a living sacrifice like he is, then what place does the former way of the law hold for us?

We now have a new and better way that God has enabled us to serve him.

It is the new way of the Spirit and not the old way of the written code (Rom. 7:6).

This new way has come to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

So if it is true, and it is, what the Bible tells us, that God's grace overcomes all sin for those who have faith in Christ, then how does the OT code still function, if at all?

The short answer is that every generation, if it is to receive God's grace, must still understand its inherited nature in reference to sin so that grace may be revealed to them.

It is this ongoing function of the law that we will explore today.

Big Question:

How can we resolve the divine tension between grace and law that results from the finished work of Christ?

What purpose does the law serve if, in fact, it is superceded by grace?

 

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 7)

          B.      Implication

We must understand that the OT law still reveals God's righteous requirements.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (v. 8)

          B.      Implication

We must understand that the OT law still reveals man's unrighteous desires.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 9-12)

          B.      Implication

We must understand that the OT law still reveals man's unrighteous inability to meet God's righteous requirements.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (v. 13)

          B.      Implication

So we must understand that the OT law is God's instrument of revelation.

          Sin is sinful.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 14-20)

          B.      Implication

So we must understand that the OT law is God's instrument of conviction.

          I am sinful.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Does this passage describe a mature Christian?

We all know that even mature Christians struggle.

If we think that this passage is describing the mature Christian life, can we say that that Christian life is life in the Spirit?

Actually, Paul is describing his experience vicariously for all Jews of living life under the law.

We might think, if we look at Philippians 3:6, that Paul was able to meet the law's requirements.

But that passage speaks of Paul's status and not his experience.

We can learn much from the experience of the Israelites and their relationship to the law by their journey across the desert to the Promised Land.

Exodus 32 (golden calf incident) shows the utter inability of the people to uphold and actually 'do' the law.

After all that God had done for them they could not obey him.

God increased the detailed requirements of the law in accordance with the increase of their sin.

As you read the OT law, you can almost come away with the impression that it is a sin to be human. Well?

VI.    Cycle Six

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 21-24)

          B.      Implication

So we must understand that the OT law is God's instrument of divine tension.

          I need help.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Have you had those times when you just realized you messed up 'big time'?

Usually, it is when someone tells you how badly you messed up.

And it often happens just when you thought you did everything OK, but you discovered it wasn't.

VII.   Cycle Seven

 

          A.      Narrative (v. 25)

          B.      Implication

Therefore we come to understand the gift of God in the finished work of Christ as the divine resolution for the fulfillment of the law.

          I have a Savior.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

How can we resolve the divine tension between grace and law that results from the finished work of Christ?

What purpose does the law serve if, in fact, it is superceded by grace?

We must understand that the OT law still reveals God's righteous requirements.

(v. 7)

We must understand that the OT law still reveals man's unrighteous desires. (v. 8)

We must understand that the OT law still reveals man's unrighteous inability to meet God's righteous requirements. (vv. 9-12)

So we must understand that the OT law is God's instrument of revelation.

(v. 13)

          Sin is sinful.

So we must understand that the OT law is God's instrument of conviction.

(vv. 14-20)

          I am sinful.

So we must understand that the OT law is God's instrument of divine tension.

(vv. 21-24)

          I need help.

Therefore we come to understand the gift of God in the finished work of Christ as the divine resolution for the fulfillment of the law. (v. 25)

          I have a Savior.

Timeless Truth:

The purpose of the law is to point the way to Christ.

In the greatest tragedy of humanity comes the greatest triumph of God.

See Gal. 3:22-25.

We can never please God by our own efforts.

We can never fulfill his law; we will always have to confess that we are "debtors to grace."

Romans 7 is about the religious person. The 'very best' of human beings outside of Christ is woefully short of God's standards.

Religious sincerity cannot save you; it can never by itself lead to genuine fulfillment of God's law.

These verses are no excuse for sin and immaturity. It is not the "sin keeps getting the best of me – but that's alright because Paul had the same problems I do" mentality.

Rather, in these verses, Paul is laying the groundwork of our victory in Christ over against the hopelessness in any other means of godliness.

Grace is still paramount at the pinnacle of the gospel.

It is by grace you are saved and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

And the power of grace is the force that will complete the conquest your own soul, and lays waste to the sin of the world and its 'do it yourself' religion.

Grace would not be grace if there were any other way.

And there is no other way to God but by his grace to us in Christ Jesus.

Everything that Paul has been saying so far in Romans keeps bringing us back to Christ as the only answer that meets our need.

He begins his letter by recounting their faith in Christ but then proceeds to lay again that foundation from the beginning of the gospel.

He reminds them of the deplorable condition of the human heart before God and our only hope is Christ.

Indeed, we are in desperate need of good news. And that good news is the gospel of Christ.

The gospel is received by faith and that faith is in Christ alone.

The foundation of faith is assurance before God and that assurance is in Christ alone.

That assurance leads us to the highest point of the gospel which is grace. And grace from God comes to us from Christ alone.

The remaining threats to grace which are sin and law can only be dealt with by the work of Christ alone.

Indeed, Christ alone meets the standard of the law of God.

Christ is at the point where grace meets or cancels out law, or deals effectively with it.

Speaking of the proverbial "between and rock and a hard spot", in light of what Christ has done for us, I'd take the Rock and leave the hard spot behind.

As Paul would later say in Romans 9:30-33 –

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;  but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."  As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 9:30-33 NIVUS)

God is allowing the net of his grace to be spread abroad over America as we discover from increasing insight into the terrorist threat among us that our way of life is much more fragile than we first believed.

The newspapers continue to report blatantly all our fears before the eyes of the enemy as if to say, "Here is how you can get to us."

Actually, I happen to recall reading in recent years about our very fears of commercial jet liners being commandeered to fly into the world trade towers and of the U.S. Postal Service being used to spread contagious diseases.

I have read recently about our fears that someone will contaminate our water supplies (which is nothing new in biblical terms) or using crop dusting planes to cut a wider swath of contagion.

I read today in the paper that there is now fear from those living along the Mississippi that the myriad locks and dams (more than any other waterway in the world) are subject to being destroyed and flooding out thousands of acres, homes and cities to destroy our lives and our economy.

When I traveled recently across the state on I-80, I stopped at a prairie nature preserve at Goose Lake where there is a nuclear energy plant.

Everything was shut down around it due to fear that someone would sabotage the facility.

Perhaps insightfully, I also stopped at the new Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to make arrangements for burial there when I die.

Brothers and sisters, have you made your peace with Jesus?

He is your only hope. He is the only hope of America. He is the only hope of the world. He is the only Son of God. He is the only Savior of man. Find your peace, make your peace, and keep your peace.

There is nothing to fear when Christ is near. You are not between a rock and a hard spot without hope. You have been given the ability to choose the Rock and leave the hard spot behind.

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