Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We Aren't There Yet?

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Romans 7:14-15 & 21-25

We know that one day we will be perfect. We will have resurrection bodies like our Lord. We will see God face to face. We will walk along streets of gold and receive the inheritance that has been prepared for us. Every tear will be wiped away and death will be no more. But we aren't there yet. And this seems to be Paul's point in the passage above. Specifically, he is being honest about his own struggle with sin. Yes! Even the Apostle Paul lost the occasional battle to temptation; even he wasn't perfect.  

Over the last few chapters, Paul has been talking quite a bit about the Christian's freedom from slavery to sin, and it seems as though he is reminding us that while we are no longer slaves to sin, we are not yet completely rid of it either. We still have that sinful nature that wars against God's Spirit within us. Elsewhere, Paul puts it this way, "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want" (Galatians 5:17). Even though we have been set free from the power of sin, we still have a sinful nature inside of us that is at war with our spiritual nature, and this war prevents us from doing the good things that we want to do. 

This means that we won't be perfect in this world. We are going to mess up. We will fall into sin. We all still need God's grace. Grace, by the way, isn't just for salvation. God's grace helps us up every time we fall. We need God's grace every day of our lives. In fact, you may have noticed that Christians sometimes fall into sin in ways that go beyond little slip ups. Sometimes we really lose ourselves in major sin. In Galatians 5:1 Paul says: "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." I bring this up because Paul seems to be saying that it is possible for those of us who have been freed from sin to live as though we weren't. We can “submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Stand firm lest that happen.

And when you do fall, don't believe the lie that this time you are beyond God's grace. God's grace is always bigger than your sin. It is always your best and only hope. Whether it is a little slip up or a major meltdown, run to the healing power of His grace. And please be careful not to give the impression that Christians are perfect. Too many people believe that Christians think we are perfect and that we look down our noses at all the sinners in the world. In reality this is the exact opposite of what we are. Christians are a people who have realized that we are deeply imperfect. We are a people in the process of being made perfect by God's grace, and we aren't there yet.

For further reading this week…
   - Romans 8: Groaning for what is to come.
   - I Corinthians 10:12-13: You can say no to temptation.
   - The book of Galatians: Paul literally wrote the book on grace.

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