Well, my old nature has been at it again! It is so fitting that Paul writes Romans 7 about the nature of the law and his humble human struggle against it – even (or especially) as Christians:
“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice…I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Isn’t Paul one of the great writers of the New Testament? Isn’t Paul one of the grand theologians of all time? We are supposed to listen to him? Does he not sound a little, you know, off?
I would say yes and no to all of these questions. Humanly speaking, I’d say yes to each question. But when we recall that God really inspired Paul to write these words (about Paul and other sinful human beings, which of course means all of us except Jesus Christ), then I would say no to each question. Perhaps Paul even tries to show us God’s perspective – how silly and confused we humans can be. As to the last question, I do not know about you, but Paul’s self-description fits me perfectly. It fits me so well that it goes beyond my nature as a sinner. “The good that I will to do,” even outside of moral issues, “I do not do.”
Let’s just review today.
I set my alarm for 7:30. I always wake up to my alarm the first time, because I hate hearing that loud BEEP, BEEP, BEEP any longer than necessary. Snooze is NOT my friend. Well, today I went right back to sleep. I re-woke up at 7:39. That would have been okay – as I never sleep enough (I’m groggy-eyed right now!) and I probably needed it – but today I needed those nine minutes to stay on schedule.
Then I went downstairs and tried very hard to get ready, warm up the truck, load up the truck, and leave by 8:30 or 8:45. If you are guessing that I left nine minutes late, you would be close – it was 11 minutes. I had no good reason for this. I just tried hard for a certain time and failed. “The good that I will to do…” When I climbed into my truck and saw the time, I got upset…for 20 minutes!
Meanwhile, an excellent lecture series I am enjoying on concert music from antiquity though World War I sat quietly in my truck’s tape deck. Worse, I was fasting and, theoretically, focusing on God. (Please see Isaiah 58.) Eventually, my disgruntled attitude did evolve into positive prayer, but for awhile the game was Romans 7: “The evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
I wanted to stick to my original plan, squeezing in as much as I could before my 10 a.m. appointment. Doing so would make the middle part of the day much easier. But I finally wrestled myself into showing up on time, which actually made me feel like a responsible and honorable person! Of course, this is ironic since being on time is what any respectable person would do.
Then I got slightly upset at how far one of my errands was. Why this should matter, when God has given me so much, as this very errand proved (piano shopping), is ridiculous. Again Romans 7: “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin.”
(By the way, I did not buy a piano today. I need to sell my old upright first. I’d like to buy a slightly smaller, slightly newer, and slightly better one. As far as pianos go, $1,000-$2,000 is my price range. Ten or twenty times that is my dream range!)
Next I did okay. I did something nice for my beautiful bride. I got something out of storage she would want rather than something I would want.
Oh, but then came the phone call! My wife was so cheerful on the other end of the line. Then I took offense at something small, and wanted her to know about it. That phone call, and the next one, and the next one all ended with me adding to my sins of the day, mostly in my head and heart: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Later in the day we were good friends again. Sadly, she seems to have an ear infection, her first in 15 years! Why do I only now, hours later, think to pray for her? (Do you think Paul sighed as he penned Romans 7?)
Then I worked more than I preferred to while I was on shift with my precious toddler son, then I e-mailed rather worked, then I shopped online rather than worked, and now – yes, I am finally working – it is 1 a.m.! “The good that I will to do, I do not do.”
Oh, how happy and humbled I am that Paul went on to write Romans 8 – one of my favorite passages in all the Bible! Two short verses after his dark “wretched man that I am!” comes a mountaintop of biblical ecstasy:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”